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December 2, 2010

Primer: Picking the season's final games

Sadly, it's the final weekend of the season. But it's also a weekend filled with good games.

There are conference title games in the ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC and SEC. It's the last one for the Big 12, but the big one is the SEC game in Atlanta. Auburn and South Carolina meet in a rematch of a game Auburn won in late September, and if the Tigers win again, they will be going to the national championship game.

The team on the other sideline in that national title game will be Oregon if the Ducks get past archrival Oregon State in their annual "Civil War."

Not playing this week but certain to be glued to their TV sets are players, coaches and fans associated with TCU. The school moved to the Big East earlier this week, and could get another jolt of publicity if either Auburn or Oregon loses; in that scenario, TCU likely gets a title game berth.

Here's a look at all the game involving FBS teams this week; in addition, we will take a quick look at the only FBS game next week, the annual Army-Navy showdown.

THURSDAY'S GAME

Arizona State (5-6) at Arizona (7-4), 8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: Arizona already has locked up its third consecutive bowl bid; it's just the third time in school history that the Wildcats are going to three consecutive bowls. Arizona has won two in a row in the series, but Arizona State still has won seven of the past 11.
THE LINE: Arizona by 6. THE PICK: Arizona 34-24

FRIDAY'S GAMES
MAC championship game in Detroit:

Miami of Ohio (8-4) vs. Northern Illinois (10-2), 7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: NIU has won nine in a row behind a strong rushing attack and a solid defense. Miami won one game last season and obviously has made a dramatic turnaround. But starting QB Zac Dysert has a ruptured spleen and is out for the season, meaning Miami has to win this one with its rushing attack.
THE LINE: NIU by 17.5. THE PICK: NIU 38-17

Illinois (6-5) at Fresno State (7-4), 10:15 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: These teams played a memorable game last season, with Fresno prevailing 53-52 when G Devan Cunningham caught a tipped two-point conversion pass and ran it into the end zone with two seconds left. Fresno has won six of its past nine against Big Six schools, with one of the losses (Ole Miss) and one of the wins (Cincinnati) coming this season. Illinois is averaging 46.8 points and 442.0 yards in its past five games.
THE LINE: Illinois by 5.5. THE PICK: Illinois 41-27

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Rutgers (4-7) at West Virginia (8-3), noon, ABC
THE BUZZ: WVU wins the Big East if it wins this game and Connecticut loses at USF. Rutgers has lost five in a row. WVU is the only team in the nation that hasn't allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. WVU has won 15 in a row in the series and leads all-time 31-4-2.
THE LINE: WVU by 20. THE PICK: WVU 38-13

Pittsburgh (6-5) at Cincinnati (4-7), noon, ESPN
THE BUZZ: This has been a disappointing campaign for both programs, but at least Pitt is going to a bowl. In addition, the Panthers still can win the Big East if they win and West Virginia and Connecticut lose. Cincy is 0-7 this season when scoring fewer than 30 points.
THE LINE: Cincinnati by 2. THE PICK: Pitt 27-21

Conference USA championship game:

SMU (7-5) at UCF (9-3), noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: This is the third appearance in the title game for UCF, which is going for its second title. This is SMU's first appearance. UCF has won 13 of its past 14 against Conference USA opponents. SMU AD Steve Orsini was the athletic director at UCF before moving on to SMU, and he hired both coaches in this game.
THE LINE: UCF by 9. THE PICK: UCF 28-17

Troy (6-5) at Florida Atlantic (4-7), 2 p.m., ESPNU
THE BUZZ: This has been a disappointing season for FAU. This is the 300th career game for Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger. This also has been a disappointing season for Troy, though the Trojans are going bowling. In their five losses, the Trojans have allowed an averaged of 44.8 points per game.
THE LINE: Troy by 4.5. THE PICK: Troy 37-30

Utah State (4-7) at Boise State (10-1), 3 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: How will Boise react coming in off a loss? They haven't faced this scenario since falling at Hawaii in the final regular-season game in 2007; the Broncos lost their next game, to East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl. A loss in this one is extremely unlikely, though. Boise State is 68-2 at home since the start of the 2000 season.
THE LINE: Boise State by 39. THE PICK: Boise State 56-14

Nevada (11-1) at Louisiana Tech (5-6), 3 p.m., WAC syndication
THE BUZZ: Louisiana Tech must win to become bowl-eligible. The Bulldogs have won four of their past six. Nevada is coming off an upset of Boise State and must win this if it is to share the WAC title. Nevada has won five in a row in the series.
THE LINE: Nevada by 9.5. THE PICK: Nevada 44-31

Oregon (11-0) at Oregon State (5-6), 3:30 p.m., ABC
THE BUZZ: There's a lot on the line in the "Civil War," as Oregon locks up a spot in the national championship game with a victory while Oregon State must win to become bowl-eligible. Oregon State has won five of the past six games played in Corvallis. Oregon has outscored foes 256-64 in the second half this season and has surrendered just 14 fourth-quarter points.
THE LINE: Oregon by 16.5. THE PICK: Oregon 49-27

SEC championship game in Atlanta:

Auburn (12-0) vs. South Carolina (9-3), 4 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: These teams met in late September at Auburn. South Carolina led into the fourth quarter, then imploded with four fourth-period turnovers. Auburn is going to have success offensively. The key for the Gamecocks is a big day from RB Marcus Lattimore; if he runs effectively, they have a chance for the big upset.
THE LINE: Auburn by 5. THE PICK: Auburn 34-27

San Jose State (1-11) at Idaho (5-7), 5 p.m.
THE BUZZ: San Jose State is the only team in the nation without a win over a FBS school; the Spartans' only triumph is a five-point affair over FCS program Southern Utah. San Jose State has lost 13 in a row on the road. Idaho QB Nathan Enderle needs 166 yards to reach 10,000 for his career; he could get that in the first half against a pass defense that ranks 111th in the nation.
THE LINE: Idaho by 13.5. THE PICK: Idaho 45-27

Middle Tennessee (5-6) at Florida International (6-5), 6 p.m.
THE BUZZ: FIU already has clinched a bowl bid and at least a share of the Sun Belt title; a win in this one, though, and the crown is all FIU's. Middle, meanwhile, can become bowl-eligible with a win, and bowl eligibility this season would mean a bid.
THE LINE: FIU by 5. THE PICK: FIU 33-24

Washington (5-6) at Washington State (2-9), 7 p.m., Versus
THE BUZZ: Washington must win to become bowl-eligible. Huskies RB Christian Polk needs 86 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard plateau, which would make him just the third Husky in school history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Washington State upset Oregon State in its most recent game and is looking for its first back-to-back Pac-10 wins since October 2006.
THE LINE: Washington by 6.5. THE PICK: Washington 31-21

ACC championship game in Charlotte:

Florida State (9-3) vs. Virginia Tech (10-2), 7:45 p.m.
THE BUZZ: The Hokies are riding a 10-game winning streak. While this isn't a vintage Virginia Tech defense, the offense has pout up solid numbers. Florida State has played solid football in Jimbo Fisher's first season. It's imperative that the Seminoles run the ball if they're to win. Their passing attack has some issues.
THE LINE: Virginia Tech by 4. THE PICK: Virginia Tech 27-20

Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas:

Nebraska (10-2) vs. Oklahoma (10-2), 8 p.m., ABC
THE BUZZ: The final Big 12 championship game matches two former Big 8 rivals. Nebraska's quarterback situation is a bit dicey, as the Huskers are going to have trouble consistently moving the ball unless Taylor Martinez plays. Sooners QB Landry Jones has had a solid season but must avoid mistakes against the Huskers' talented secondary.
THE LINE: Oklahoma by 4.5. THE PICK: Oklahoma 30-24

Connecticut (7-4) at USF (7-4), 8 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: UConn -- which is just 1-4 on the road this season -- gets the Big East's BCS bid if it wins this one. The home team has won six in a row in the series. USF coach Skip Holtz was the coach at UConn from 1994-98. USF is 7-0 when scoring more than 14 points and 0-4 when they've been held to 14 or fewer points.
THE LINE: USF by 1.5. THE PICK: UConn 17-13

USC (7-5) at UCLA (4-7), 10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
THE BUZZ: USC has won 10 of the past 11 in this intense city rivalry. UCLA K Kai Forbath is two field goals away from tying the NCAA career record held by Georgia's Billy Bennett (87, from 2000-03).
THE LINE: USC by 6.5. THE PICK: USC 24-20

UNLV (2-10) at Hawaii (9-3), 10:30 p.m., ESPN GamePlan
THE BUZZ: Hmmm -- there seems to be something unfair when UNLV fans get a chance to go to Hawaii. Shouldn't Hawaii be playing a team from the Midwest or northeast to give those fans a way to get away from cruddy weather? The game itself doesn't have much going for it. Hawaii leads the nation in forced turnovers (33) and has at least two interceptions in each of the past nine games.
THE LINE: Hawaii by 34.5. THE PICK: Hawaii 56-20

SATURDAY, DEC. 11

Army (6-5) vs. Navy (8-3) in Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., CBS
THE BUZZ: Both already have accepted bowl bids -- Navy to the Poinsettia Bowl, Army to the Armed Forces Bowl -- but that won't lessen the intensity of this rivalry. Navy has won eight in a row in the series, the Midshipmen's longest winning streak. In addition, Navy has outscored Army 89-6 in the past three, allowing just two field goals.
THE LINE: TBD. THE PICK: Navy 33-23

LAST WEEK

42-12 straight up, 28-22-1 against the spread.

YEAR TO DATE

529-170 straight up, 295-300-12 ATS (games involving FCS schools don't have a spread)

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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