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News, thoughts and more from the world of college sports across the nation and Long Island.


National title hopes on the line for many

Games to Watch

No. 1 Notre Dame (11-0) @ USC (7-4, 5-4 PAC-12), 8 p.m.: Just how important is this game? It probably registers about 100 on the Richter game. First and foremost, a win puts Notre Dame back in the limelight, a place it hasn’t been since the Lou Holtz era. Second, it means dramatic ratings for its TV and radio partners. Finally, pro and anti-Notre Dame chatter will be going back and forth at a break-neck pace. It also means a lot for the ACC. How, you may ask? The ACC took a huge blow to the body when Maryland announced it was bolting for the Big Ten. But having a national-championship caliber football team playing at least five of its members means more exposure for the conference. USC will be fired up for this one, even without quarterback Matt Barkley (shoulder). Backup quarterback Max Wittek made that clear when he practically guaranteed a victory over the Fighting Irish. That could easily backfire on the Trojans, who will be facing the top scoring defense in the country. The Irish (10.1 ppg) have only allowed one team to score more than 20 points against them. And that was in their 29-26 three-overtime win over Pittsburgh. A couple of series notes: USC has won nine of the last 10 games. Prediction: The Fighting Irish will bring back memories of Lou Holtz, Tim Brown, Tony Rice, Chris Zorich, etc… with a rousing win.

Not that any Big East game has national championship implications, but there are two games that could determine the league’s champion on Saturday.

No. 18 Rutgers (9-1, 5-0 Big East @ Pittsburgh (4-6, 1-4), Noon: This game has “trap” written all over it for Rutgers. If this Scarlet Knights team wants to prove the program belongs in the Big Ten, then they need to win this game. A loss would put the Scarlet Knights back into the “Same ‘ol Rutgers” category. The big concern for coach Kyle Flood is making sure his squad, the freshmen and sophomores in particular, from thinking about the conference move. A lot could depend on the health of Scarlet Knights RB Jawan Jamison, who had only four carries in last week’s 10-3 win at Cincinnati due to an ankle injury. Sophomore Savon Huggins ran for a career-high 179 yards in place of Jamison last week, which should offer some comfort if Jamison doesn’t play or is limited. This game is ultra important, because if Rutgers wins and Louisville loses to Connecticut, the Scarlet Knights gets the Big East’s automatic BCS bid. Prediction: Rutgers finally gets over that hump.

Connecticut (4-6, 1-4 Big East) @ No. 20 Louisville (9-1, 4-1), Noon: Under normal circumstances, you’d bet the house on Louisville winning this one going away. But this is the Big East where crazy things happen. Not to mention Louisville’s defense leaves much to be decided. It wasn’t more than two weeks ago that the Cardinals got blitzed by Syracuse, 45-26. They got ripped for 524 total yards. Then again, Connecticut is one of the lowest scoring teams in the Big East. Then again, the Huskies have an excellent pass defense, which is why we say crazy things happen in the Big East. Prediction: Louisville wins this one easily.

Other games

No. 4 Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC) @ No. 10 Florida State (10-1, 7-1 ACC), 3:30 p.m.: This game could have an impact on the national championship picture if Georgia loses to Georgia Tech. Why? If Georgia losses to Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs are, for all intent and purposes, out of the national title race. But if the Bulldogs lose to the Yellow Jackets and somehow beat Alabama in the SEC title game, the Gators could make a case for inclusion in the BCS title game if they can knock off the Seminoles. There are a lot of ifs in that, but anything can happen in college football. Prediction: The Seminoles end all speculation with an exciting win at home.

No. 5 Oregon (10-1, 7-1 PAC-12) @ No. 15 Oregon State (8-2, 6-2), 3:00 p.m.: Oregon is in the same boat as Florida. A Stanford loss at UCLA and an Oregon win puts the Ducks in the PAC-12 title game and back into the national title picture. For that to happen, at least two, maybe even three of the following teams –Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame– must lose. A lot of ifs in that scenario, too. Prediction: Oregon State puts an end to the slim national title hopes of the Ducks.

No. 8 Stanford (9-2, 7-1 PAC-12) @ No. 17 UCLA (9-2, 6-2), 6:30 p.m.: See above. Prediction: All Stanford in this one.

No, we didn't forget about Alabama and Auburn. Does anyone really think Auburn has a chance? And we didn't forget about Michigan vs. Ohio State either. But that game doesn't mean anything on the national stage since Ohio State isn't eligible for a BCS bowl.