Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl Headlines Rivalry Week
7 Divisional Titles Will Be Decided This Week
You have to love this week of the college football season when archrivals go to battle, division titles and conference championship pairings are up for grabs, and bowl eligibility is on the line. If those aren't reasons enough to relish the moments, you can add the pursuit of an unbeaten season, BCS-busting, and national title implications to the mix.
No game looms larger on a national scale this week than the Iron Bowl rivalry between Alabama and Auburn. The 10-1 Tigers host the Crimson Tide as 9.63-point computer underdogs in the de facto SEC Western division title match, which is considerably tighter than the preseason projection of a 15.88-point 'Bama win. Between them, the two schools have won the last 4 BCS Championship games and Alabama is just two wins away from playing for a three-peat.
While Alabama is No. 1 in the BCS Standings, the top spot in the Congrove Computer Rankings belongs to Florida State. FSU has a hefty power rating lead of 4.88 points over Ohio State and 5.26 points over Alabama. The 'Noles haven't been challenged on the field in weeks as they have won their last 7 games by no fewer than 27 points. Moreover, the off-field distractions of the ongoing news surrounding QB Jameis Winston (rape allegation) doesn't seem to have impacted his play or the focus of the team. The 'Noles are a 19.57-point computer pick this week at rival Florida after being projected in the preseason to lose this game by nearly 7 points. Florida is just 4-7 and will not compete in a bowl game for the first time since the 1990 season when it was ineligible due to probation. Florida's last losing season occurred in 1979 (0-10-1).
Michigan and Ohio State renew their rivalry for the 110th time with the Buckeyes forecasted to win by 11.42. Ohio State has won 8 of the last 9 meetings and 10-of-12, but trails 58-45-6 overall. Ranked 3rd in the BCS and 2nd in the CRR Top 125, the Buckeyes are on a school record 23-game winning streak and have yet to lose a game under current head coach Urban Meyer.
Seven divisional titles have to be decided this week to set the pairings for the upcoming conference championship games. The Big Ten is set with Michigan State and Ohio State, as is the PAC-12 with Stanford and Arizona State. Divisional crowns to be determined are the ACC Coastal, CUSA East and West, MAC East, MWC Mountain and SEC Eastern and Western.
In the ACC Coastal, current leader Duke is a 5.93-point underdog and Virginia Tech is a 12.91-point favorite at Virginia. If those predictions hold true, the Hokies head to Charlotte to meet Florida State.
Marshall is a 1.22-point home choice over East Carolina in a de facto CUSA East division title game on Friday.
Rice is favored to claim the CUSA West title with a 8.56-point home win over Tulane. However, a Green Wave victory, coupled with a UTSA loss, would send Tulane to the title game. And if Tulane wins and UTSA beats Louisiana Tech as expected, UTSA would win a three-way tie with Rice and Tulane, as well as a four-way tie with Rice, Tulane and North Texas. North Texas can't win any scenario after last week's 21-13 upset loss at home to UTSA.
The MAC East has a de facto championship game in Buffalo when the Bulls host Bowling Green on Friday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the NFL Bills. The computer favors the Falcons in that matchup by 9.30 points.
Northern Illinois has already clinched the West and is a 30.13-point home pick over Western Michigan on Tuesday to finish an unbeaten regular season for the second straight year. NIU currently leads all non-AQ conference members in the BCS Standings after jumping Fresno State to land at No. 14 in Sunday's latest release of the numbers.
Fresno State, ranked 16 in the BCS, has clinched the MWC West and is an 8.74-point favorite at San Jose State on Friday to finish an undefeated regular season.
The MWC Mountain comes down to Utah State or Boise State with the Aggies holding the upper hand after the Broncos lost at San Diego State in overtime Saturday. Both are hefty favorites this week. Utah State is a 24.91-point computer pick over visiting Wyoming and Boise State is a 26.24-point choice over visiting New Mexico. A Utah State win or a Boise State loss sends USU. Boise State can only advance with a win AND a Utah State loss.
Missouri is favored to claim the SEC's Eastern division with a 5.67-point victory at home over Texas A&M. An upset loss by the Tigers would send South Carolina to Atlanta to face the Alabama-Auburn winner.
Arizona State is a 9.75-point favorite over Arizona for the Territorial Cup. A win for the Sun Devils would secure the hosting spot for the PAC-12 title game.
What about the conferences that don't hold a league championship match?
The American is UCF's title to lose. The Golden Knights are the only team without a blemish on the conference side of the ledger as they finish with USF at home and SMU on the road. Central Florida gets a 26.82-point nod from the computer for Friday's game against the South Florida Bulls. The Knights are currently a 9.38-point favorite in the finale at the Mustangs.
Oklahoma State controls its destiny in the Big 12. The Cowboys are 7-1 in the conference while Baylor and Texas are each 6-1. Oklahoma State is idle this week and only needs to win at Oklahoma in the Bedlam rivalry game on December 7th to claim that crown. OSU is currently favored by 8.52 points over the Sooners.
Louisiana-Lafayette is the only Sun Belt team that is undefeated in conference play. The Ragin' Cajuns are a 12.62-point pick at home over Louisiana-Monroe this week and is currently favored by 7.24 in the season finale at South Alabama.
There is a pair of Thanksgiving Day contests as Ole Miss visits Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl rivalry and Texas hosts Texas Tech. The Rebels are a 0.36-point choice in their game and the Longhorns are favored by 8.49.
Other Friday games this week include Washington State at Washington in the Apple Cup, and Oregon State at Oregon in the Civil War. Saturday's big rivalries include Notre Dame at Stanford, and UCLA at USC. The computer likes Washington (-20.27), Oregon (-18.47), Stanford (-10.68) and USC (-3.12) in those matchups.
BCS TEAMS UNDER CONSIDERATION (As of Tuesday, 11/26):
The champions of the American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences automatically qualify for a BCS game. In addition, the highest-ranked conference champion from among Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences earns automatic qualification to one of the BCS games if that champion is ranked No. 12 or better in the final BCS Standings, or No. 16 or better if it is ranked higher than any champion from the American Athletic, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or Southeastern conferences. Notre Dame also qualifies automatically if it is ranked No. 8 or better.
At-large berths also will be available. The bowls will fill those berths from teams ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS Standings. No conference may place more than two teams in the BCS games, unless the conference has two teams in the National Championship Game, and neither team is its champion.
The final BCS Standings will be compiled Sunday, December 8. The BCS bowl pairings will be announced at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time that day, on ESPN.
The champions from the six conferences which receive automatic spots in the BCS games have not been determined. The following is a list of teams still contending for their conferences' automatic berths:
- American: Central Florida, Cincinnati, Louisville
- ACC: Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech
- Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State
- Big 12: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas
- Pac-12: Arizona State, Stanford
- SEC: Alabama, Auburn, Missouri, South Carolina
In addition to those teams, the pool of teams remaining under consideration also includes (in alphabetical order): Clemson, Fresno State, LSU, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, Wisconsin.
UNDEFEATED AND WINLESS TEAMS:
5 teams remain on the undefeated list - Alabama, Florida State, Fresno State, Northern Illinois and Ohio State.
4 teams are left in the winless group - Georgia State, Hawaii, Miami (Ohio) and Southern Miss.
FBS vs. FCS:
FBS schools were a collective 95-16 (.856) in FBS-FCS matches this season and are 831-81 (.911) since 2003.
Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
8/29: Towson 33, Connecticut 18
8/29: Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21
8/30: Samford 31, Georgia State 21
8/30: North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
8/31: Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
8/31: Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46
8/31: Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 18
8/31: McNeese State 53, USF 21
9/7: UT-Chattanooga 42, Georgia State 14
9/7: Maine 24, Massachusetts 14
9/7: Nicholls State 27, Western Michigan 23.
9/14: Fordham 30, Temple 29
9/14: Bethune-Cookman 34, FIU 13
9/21: Jacksonville State 32, Georgia State 26 (OT)
11/9: Old Dominion 59, Idaho 38
11/23: Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20
Eastern Washington, McNeese State and North Dakota State also had wins vs. FBS teams last year.
Originally, 106 FBS schools scheduled a total of 110 games against FCS foes this year. But Colorado later replaced a game it lost vs. Fresno State (due to flooding) with Charleston Southern. Thus, 106 FBS schools played a total of 111 games vs. FCS foes. The schedule change also made Colorado the 4th FBS team to face at least two such schools this year. The others are Clemson and Georgia Tech with 2 apiece while FBS newcomer Georgia State scheduled 3 FCS teams and lost to each of them.
Ohio State - Won 23 straight overall (FBS longest). Visits Michigan on Saturday.
Northern Illinois - Won 25 straight at home (FBS longest), 24 straight vs. conference foes (FBS longest), and 15 straight road games (FBS longest). Hosts Western Michigan on Tuesday.
LSU - Won 45 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Hosts Arkansas on Friday.
Southern Miss - Lost 23 straight overall (FBS longest). Visits UAB on Saturday.
New Mexico State - Lost 22 straight to FBS teams. Hosts Idaho on Saturday and is favored to win by 6.20.
Kansas - Lost 24 straight road games (FBS longest). Hosts Kansas State on Saturday.
Kentucky - Lost 15 straight conference games (FBS longest). Hosts Tennessee on Saturday as a 3.47-point underdog.