Thursday, November 19, 2009

NCAA '09 Football: Week 12

The 2009 college football season is beginning to wind down as the first of some of the great traditional end of the season games are being played. The real issue is for teams fighting for conference leads and bowl bids. In a year where the mighty have fallen and the upstarts slaughtered by the improbable teams with high hopes at the beginning of the season are left asking “why?” while some of the less likely are asking “why not?”

Two of the great historic programs, USC and Notre Dame, perhaps are best illustrations of how the mighty have fallen. There has never been a season where early on USC is not seen as a possible National Champion, but mired in fifth place in the PAC 10 standings reeling after being slaughtered by Stanford after earlier losses to Washington and Oregon. For Notre Dame, the picture is uglier. 2009 was supposed to be the Fighting Irish’s return to glory. Anything less than a BCS bid would be a failure. Well, forget about the BCS bowl, can they do better than the trip to Hawaii they won last year. Perhaps their first loss of the season, 38-34 against Michigan would have seemed legit, the Wolverines are not a threatening team who’ve lost against all Big 10 rivals besides Indiana looking timid and weak in most of those losses. USC beat them, but they are USC, aren’t they? Their next loss was a home loss to Navy, a team Notre Dame is supposed to beat with ease but lost 23-21. Last week, they lost to Pittsburgh ranked 12th. Pittsburgh’s a good team, but teams worthy of a major bowl win those games. With Connecticut this week and then a trip to California to play Stanford, talk about Charlie Weiss not returning next year is mighty loud in South Bend. Does anyone believe he’s the coach to lead Notre Dame back to the Promised Land?

Alas, then there was Iowa, the Cinderella team who looked destined to oust the Big 10’s most powerful having ruined Penn State’s dream of a National Championship? Iowa’s still having a respectable season ranked at #12, but after achieving a 9-0 record, they lost to the lowly Northwestern then fell to Ohio State in overtime.

The ACC’s story is one that is apparent to a lesser extent in some other conferences giving the appearance of achieving some kind of parity as there is no clearly dominant team unless Georgia Tech’s achievements would qualify them as such. Clemson leads the Atlantic division at 5-2, 7-3, overall, with Boston College at 4-2. All the rest of the Atlantic division has losing records including Florida State at 3-4 with calls demanding Bobby Bowden retire hastening the governor of Florida weighing in he should be allowed to stay. The Coastal conference appears more muscular with Georgia Tech at 7-1, 10-1 over all, with Virginia Tech at 4-2 and Miami at 4-3. Miami appears to have taken great strides toward being the great team they once were. North Carolina will enjoy a bowl bid despite having only three ACC victories stands at 7-3 overall, but the Tar Heels have gotten stronger as the season progressed. A win against FSU would secure their argument.

Our games this week feature a mixed bag of hopefuls, rivals, and good stories.

Oregon #11 (-6) at Arizona
This is a must win for Oregon to remain in the upper reaches of the Top-25. They should beat Arizona, a team appearing to be lost in a late season fade.

Ohio State #9 (-12) at Michigan
Given years of recent futility and little sign of a change in the near future, a radio commentator argued this historic matchup can hardly be called a real rivalry any longer since Michigan is not upholding its roll as a worthy competitor. The “Big House” will be laid silent by the Buckeyes.

Maryland at Florida State (-19)
What a sad game this is, a team that really sucks versus a team that should be doing much better. Since this game in being played in Tallahassee amidst all the controversy, Florida State must win big or the 2009 season’s end will be a campus wide nightmare. Having only one quality win versus Clemson and losing five straight, Maryland’s mailed it in. That they would rally their forces and beat Florida State seems most unlikely.

Penn State #13 (-3) at Michigan State
Michigan State cannot be taken lightly as Penn State must give their maximum effort to try to work in to the top ten to finish their season.

LSU #10 at Mississippi (-4)
LSU will prove the odds makers insane and likewise convince the world they belong in the top 10 by winning against Mississippi in grand fashion.

Oklahoma (-6 ½) at Texas Tech
Both teams are motivated to put in a good showing to show the world they belong in the same conversation as Texas and Oklahoma State so this should be one heck of a toughly fought game. Oklahoma should prevail with Tech making them earn it.

North Carolina at Boston College (-3.5)
Here’s a great chance for UNC to dismiss their sluggish start and show that they are a team building into a proven winner by upsetting the favored Boston College, that weird school so far removed from the rest of the ACC geographically.

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