by Mike Mitchell
There's no doubt which game looms the largest this week on a national scale as the Big Ten takes center stage with Michigan at Ohio State. But, with USC ascending to 3rd place in the latest BCS Standings, the Trojans' home date with California is almost as big.
Meanwhile, the regular season comes to a close this week for twenty-two teams, eight of which have no chance of advancing to a bowl game.
Michigan at Ohio State - The winner captures the Big Ten crown and goes to the BCS title game. The loser almost certainly gets an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game. The Buckeyes won 25-21 in Ann Arbor last year, but Michigan still leads the series 57-39-6. Jim Tressel is 4-1 against Michigan since taking the reigns at Ohio State in 2001.
Cal at USC - Cal won at USC in 1998 and 2000. Jeff Tedford beat Pete Carroll in 2003. This week's winner clinches the conference's automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. For USC, that could mean a return trip to the national title game.
Rutgers at Cincinnati - A big game for the obvious reason that Rutgers is trying to play its way into the BCS title game.
West Virginia at Pitt (Thursday) - The Panthers lead the series 58-36-3, but the Mountaineers have won three of the last four. Pitt is on a 3-game losing streak after beginning the season 6-1. West Virginia could still claim the Big East title, despite its loss to Louisville. The Mountaineers host Rutgers on December 2.
Auburn at Alabama - Auburn slipped to 9-2 and was eliminated from SEC West Division title contention with last week's loss to Georgia. The Crimson Tide has dropped to 6-5, but this is still one of the best state rivalry games in the nation. The Iron Bowl series is led by Alabama 38-31-1, but Mike Shula is 0-3 against the Tigers.
Maryland at Boston College - Maryland and Wake Forest enter the week tied for the ACC Atlantic Division title and they face each other next week. But Boston College is still alive and would head to the ACC Championship if it wins its last two games, and Wake Forest loses its last two games.
Virginia Tech at Wake Forest - Wake Forest needs to close the season with two more wins to get to the ACC Championship game. The Demon Deacons won their only ACC title in 1970. Virginia Tech needs a win to keep their Chick-Fil-A Bowl hopes alive. It's only the third meeting between the two teams since Wake Forest's last win over the Hokies in 1983. The Demon Deacons are 9-1 for the first time ever. Last week's win over Florida State was their first over the Seminoles in 33 years, and their first win in Tallahassee since 1959.
East Carolina at Rice - Rice needs one more win to become bowl eligible. The Owls haven't played in a bowl game since the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. East Carolina needs a win to claim the CUSA East title.
Houston at Memphis - Houston can claim the CUSA West title with a win. The up-and-down Cougars began the year 4-0, then dropped three straight games. Now, they've bounced back with three consecutive wins, including a huge victory over Tulsa two weeks ago.
Oklahoma at Baylor - A Sooner win means Texas would have to beat Texas A&M next week to claim the Big 12 South title. Should Oklahoma blow this game, Texas automatically heads to the Big 12 title game against Nebraska.
Arkansas at Mississippi State - The Razorbacks can claim the SEC West title with a win and would face Florida in the conference championship game. If Arkansas loses this week, the winner of next week's Arkansas-LSU game would advance (assuming LSU beats Ole Miss this week).
New Mexico at BYU - The Cougars secure the Mountain West title with a win. If BYU loses this week, next week's BYU-Utah game would decide the conference champion (assuming Utah survives at Air Force this week).
Akron at Ohio (Thursday) - Ohio secures the MAC East title with a win.
Arkansas State at Troy - A Troy win this week means next week's game at Middle Tennessee would likely determine the Sun Belt champion.
San Jose State at Hawaii - Hawaii has scored over 60 points four times in its last five games.
Utah State at Boise State - Boise State can clinch at least a share of the WAC title for the fifth straight year with a win on Saturday.
Western Michigan at Florida State - Who would have thought, at the beginning of the year, that this game could factor into whether or not the Seminoles could become bowl eligible? Jeff Bowden, Bobby's son, resigned as offensive coordinator on Tuesday, effective at the end of the season. the younger Bowden replaced Mark Richt when Richt took the head coaching job at Georgia in 2001.
Only four unbeaten teams remain and two of those go toe-to-toe this weekend when Michigan (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) visits Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten). Rutgers (9-0, 4-0 Big East) and Boise State (10-0, 6-0 WAC) are the other two.
Rutgers kicked Louisville out of the club last week with its' surprising 28-25 comeback win.
This week, Rutgers visits Cincinnati while Boise State hosts Utah State.
Last year, Texas and USC were the only two undefeated teams left at this point of the season. Alabama had just been eliminated by LSU.
Eight teams enter this week with just one loss. There were eleven at this point last year.
Only two schools are still looking for their first win after Stanford broke through with a 20-3 victory over Washington last week.
Duke (0-10, 0-6 ACC Coastal) visits Georgia Tech (8-2, 6-1 ACC Coastal) while FIU (0-9, 0-4 Sun Belt) hosts Louisiana-Lafayette (4-5, 1-3 Sun Belt).
There were also two winless teams at this point last year when New Mexico State and Temple were still searching for victory number one. Buffalo and Rice had just won for the first time all season.
Florida is the only 1-A school to play a 1-AA team this week when the Gators host Western Carolina.
1-AA teams are 7-70 for the season against their higher-classified brethren. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, 1-A teams hold the upper hand by a huge margin, 234-25 (.903).
Over 75 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent.
Ohio State has won 18 straight games.
Michigan has won 11 straight games.
Boise State has won 10 straight over-all, 12 straight regular season games, and 35 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos have never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (23-0).
Rutgers has won 9 straight over-all, 10 straight regular season games.
USC has won a nation's-best 31 consecutive home games.
Duke has lost 18 games over-all, and 20 straight to 1-A teams.
UNLV and FIU have each lost 9 straight games.
New Mexico State has lost 21 straight to 1-A teams.
The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. We're tracking their progress throughout the season.
Boise State, 10-0 under Chris Petersen, hosts Utah State.
Wisconsin, 10-1 under Bret Bielema, hosts Buffalo.
Middle Tennessee, 7-3 under Rick Stockstill, visits South Carolina.
Kansas State, 7-4 under Ron Prince, visits Kansas.
Rice, 5-5 under Todd Graham, hosts East Carolina.
Idaho, 4-6 under Dennis Erickson, visits Fresno State.
Northwestern, 3-8 under Pat Fitzgerald, hosts Illinois.
Buffalo, 2-8 with Turner Gill, visits Wisconsin.
San Diego State, 2-7 under Chuck Long, visits TCU.
Colorado, 2-9 under Dan Hawkins, is idle.
Temple, 1-10 under Al Golden, visits Navy.