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Monday, November 18, 2013

Home Stretch

Seasons seem to come and go so quickly, and we're down to just two weeks remaining in most conferences' regular seasons. In the midst of a national picture that seems sewn up, should each of the leaders keep winning, there are some interesting conference races out there.

American
Yes, Central Florida leads and will probably look to take 64-12 out of USF's hide come Thanksgiving weekend. Frankly, I'd say they could stand to be ranked higher than their current #17, especially if they win out with their sole loss coming by 3 to South Carolina. Even one loss will likely send them to the BCS - they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville, and with the next tiebreaker being BCS ranking, they'd probably be fine over unranked Cincinnati, who they don't play this season, should it come to that.

ACC
Florida State has already emphatically clinched the Atlantic division, but things are a good deal more interesting in the Coastal. As much as a five-way tie is still not only possible, but not entirely far-fetched. I have a few thoughts about this race, and they're all entirely selfish. As much as I hate Duke, I almost - ALMOST - want to see them win the division, in that rooting-for-the-underdog sort of way. Still, I'm going to the ACC Championship game, and the thought of being in amongst a critical mass of Dookies nauseates me. Miami would bring about the matchup the ACC football championship was created for, and could send my friend Josh up this way. I have no desire for Georgia Tech, as it would mean a rematch of last year's championship. The five way tie would send Virginia Tech down here, and I wouldn't mind seeing the Marching Virginians in action. Still, with the human element remaining in the BCS standings, while FSU's title bid seems unquestionable, you'd have to wonder what voters may do if FSU should somehow struggle with a four loss VT or GT if Ohio State should cruise past a one loss Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. Which leads me to...

Big Ten
I can't bring myself to be bothered by the fact that Ohio State could go 25-0 over two seasons and still miss the national championship game. After all, had they self-imposed a bowl ban after Tattoogate and forgone the Gator Bowl appearance, they may have played Notre Dame for the title last year. Meanwhile, while the Spartans are still in the driver's seat to win the division, it only takes a slip-up from them this weekend for Minnesota to have a shot at the Legends division crown when they face Michigan State. If Ohio State and Michigan State both hold serve, however, we'll see a dual Sudler matchup for the first time in the history of the Big Ten championship game.

Big 12
The two teams ahead of Baylor on the schedule are the two teams behind them in the league standings. If they beat Oklahoma State, they can revert their focus to whatever shot they have at the national title hunt. Lose there, and the Cowboys hold tiebreakers over Baylor and Texas as long as they themselves can survive Bedlam.

Pac-12
With Stanford's loss this past weekend, Oregon is back in the North division driver's seat, though if they drive to Pasadena, it'll be a week earlier than they may have liked, barring mass disruption ahead of them in the BCS. In the South, Arizona State can make it easy, but UCLA still controls its destiny with the Sun Devils and Trojans remaining on the schedule.

SEC
Done with their conference slate, South Carolina has become Aggie and/or Rebel fans, as they need for Mizzou to slip up. If they lose either of those games though, the Gamecocks take it in the tiebreaker. Out west, another set of Tigers licks their chops, as the Iron Bowl gives them the chance both to knock off their archrival and punch their ticket to Atlanta. In perhaps the most suburban dad move ever, I saw the end of their game against UGA on the TV in an Ikea, but that win keeps hope alive on the Plains.

I hate that the season's this close to the end, but there's still plenty of excitement to be had between now and bowl season.
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