I don’t want to offend Saturday. The day has been so good to all of us for so long, but Saturday will take a backseat to Friday this weekend. The traditional college football day features plenty of good games, but today you get quality over quantity with three fantastic football games; and that’s excluding the Backyard Brawl, which gets started at noon on ABC. The BCS contenders take the main stage today, each facing a different challenge. Get the leftover turkey on ready alert, clear your schedule, and settle in for three straight football games.
Auburn at Alabama, 2:30 et CBS– The 2:30 start time will help you get whatever you finish whatever you need to accomplish before disappearing for the day. One of the most highly anticipated Iron Bowls in recent memory isn’t a bad way to start things off. Alabama is ranked just outside the top ten, but most would agree they’re of top ten caliber and you’d have to go back to 1994 since both Auburn and Bama were ranked in the top ten coming into their rivalry game. You already know the cast of characters for this one. Cam Newton and DT Nick Fairley for Auburn, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Julio Jones for Bama.
The Tide feature the 22nd best rushing defense against Auburn’s #3 rush offense. That’s the battle to decide this game, whether Alabama can slow down Newton in the run game. Obviously it won’t be easy, but if Auburn ends up with around 200 rushing yards, I like Alabama’s chances. The weakest unit in this game is Auburn’s defense, leading many to question their fit as a championship front-runner. The Tigers rank 50th in total defense, 59th in scoring defense, and 100th against the pass. That defense will need its best performance today because Alabama won’t be allowing a 63-60 shootout. With Auburn’s dominant offense and shaky defense, I do expect both teams to get around 30 and it will come down to how Cam Newton handles the pressure of having to make some plays in the passing game.
Arizona at Oregon, 7:00 et ESPN– The Ducks can clear the highest hurdle left in their run to the BCS Championship Game tonight. Oregon still has in-state rival Oregon State next week, but the Wildcats pose a much bigger threat. Part of the challenge is Arizona’s top-20 defense, but Oregon will come into this game looking vulnerable for the first time all year. The Ducks should not have escaped last week’s game at Cal with a win, putting up 15 points and surviving a bunch of close calls. These two teams have caused each other a lot of pain in recent years also. In 2007 the Ducks were in a similar position to contend for a title when Dennis Dixon was injured against Arizona and the Wildcats spoiled their season. Last year it was Oregon’s turn, as the Ducks tied the game up with six seconds remaining and won in OT to deny the Cats a Rose Bowl trip.
Zona’s 14th ranked rush defense will be happy to allow just double their 112 ypg average with a seemingly healthy LaMichael James ready to go. Wildcats QB Nick Foles has been good over his last two games, but to no avail as Arizona has dropped back to back games against Stanford and USC. The top-ranked Ducks will lean on James and hope for a bounce-back from their young QB Darron Johnson. An Oregon win would give the Ducks their second straight Pac-10 title, but obviously there is much more at stake here.
Boise State at Nevada, 10:15 et ESPN– KNIGHT GAMEZ! Boise State faces its final test–and first since September– against high powered Nevada. The Broncos have a 24 game win streak on the line and star power with Kellen Moore, Titus Young, and Austin Pettis, but Nevada is an imposing force. The Wolfpack boast a top five rushing offense led by QB Colin Kaepernick and RB Vai Taua. Vowel confusion aside, they are a dangerous team that could give Boise a run. An upset loss to Hawaii kept this game from being as huge as it could have been, but Boise State relishes any opportunity to sway the voters on a national stage. Moore will have a great chance to boost his Heisman resume against Nevada’s 103rd ranked pass defense. While Nevada doesn’t match up well with Boise’s strength, the Broncos are well equipped against the Wolfpack’s running game, featuring the nation’s best rush defense. Especially if Bama or Arizona can post a win, this is a giant game for Boise State that could push David to the match-up he desperately wants against Goliath.