The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday for Christmas shopping, and it could be for other reasons for several teams' BCS hopes, as there are three games pitting top four teams against ranked opponents, including a Pac-10 contest. #2 Auburn visits #11 Alabama in the Iron Bowl, another one of those cross-state rivalry games Pac-10 fans understand so well, and it will have an impact on both the BCS Championship game, and the Rose Bowl by the time the effects of the outcome ripple through the top 25.
An extra day means enough television windows to get everyone in action on tv.
The Pac-10 game that matters of course is down in Eugene, where the #20 Arizona Wildcats (7-3, 4-3) visit the #1 Oregon Ducks (10-0, 7-0) at 4 PM on ESPN. The Wildcats are almost a three touchdown underdog in Autzen, and the margin is that large, even coming off a bye week's preparation, because they are coming off back to back losses, 42-17 at Stanford, and then 24-21 against USC.
Oregon has also had an extra week to reflect on what was their poorest performance of the season, a 15-13 win at Cal. It was the first time the Ducks have been held under 42 points all year, though it was as good a defensive outing as any outside their shutouts of New Mexico and Portland St. months ago. And for the Ducks, any win in Berkeley is a good win.
Both Nick Foles and LaMichael James should be in better shape physically, and everyone should be happy about that, as both teams should be much better shape offensively. Arizona has been a tough team for either Oregon team to beat in recent years, and could probably sell their secret to USC. Oregon should be ready to produce one of their best games, something usually needed against the ‘Cats, though.
Friday has another important Pac-10 game, and in some ways more important, when the UCLA Bruins (4-6, 2-5) visit the Arizona State Sun Devils (4-6, 2-5) at 12:30 PM on Fox Sports Network of regional sports stations. More important in some ways because Oregon is going to some BCS bowl if they win either of their last two games, or Stanford falls to Oregon St., and Arizona is going to a bowl even if they lose twice more. The game in Tempe is a bowl elimination game, as a loss ensures a losing season for either team, while the winner can get to 6-6 with a rivalry game win next week, and ASU could conceivably even get to a bowl, with a waiver for their two wins over FCS teams if there aren't 70 teams otherwise eligible.
The Bruins were beaten up and beaten down 24-7 by Washington on a cold Thursday night in Seattle, their fourth loss in five games. Backup quarterback Richard Brehaut, filling in for Kevin Prince, who is out for the year, was benched, but Darius Bell was ineffective, and then knocked out, and Clayton Turner couldn't get the UCLA offense moving either.
The Sun Devils are coming off a bye, and actually played one of their better games, forcing Stanford to have to get a fourth quarter comeback touchdown for a 17-13 win. It was still the third loss in four weeks for Arizona St. though, who continue to struggle to run the ball.
Saturday starts with another bowl eligibility elimination game, when the Washington Huskies (4-6, 3-4) visit the California Golden Bears (5-6, 3-5) at 12:30 PM on Comcast Sports Network in California, and Fox Sports Northwest. The Bears weren't golden in the Big Game, getting beaten big by Stanford 48-14. Playing in Berkeley, after having gone toe to toe with Oregon, it was a surprise that Cal wasn't competitive. But they are a touchdown in Pullman away from being 0-4 over the last month.
Jake Locker's last home game wasn't one of his best individual performances, but it was one of his better leadership games, and it broke a three game losing streak that closely paralleled Locker's broken rib. It didn't hurt that Chris Polk came up with a 138 yard night either.
Washington still needs two wins to get to a bowl, but while Cal can qualify with a win in this one, they also collapsed in their last conference game last year, also against the Huskies, and they were coming off a win at Stanford, with a bowl game in the bag then.
Oregon St. bounced back from their worst loss of the season with their second most dominating win ever over USC, a 36-7 rout where the Beaver defense, special teams, and offense all outplayed the Trojans. Jacquizz Rodgers did what he always does, ripping USC for 128 rushing yards, and 171 overall, and Jordan Poyer and Stephen Paea led a defense that limited the Trojans to 255 total yards. And Oregon St. beat Stanford, and Andrew Luck, fairly handily, 38-28, last year.
Luck leveled unwitting Bear defensive back Sean Cattouse on a 58 yard run that was a signature play in an afternoon where he led the Cardinal to eight consecutive scores before calling it an afternoon. The Stanford defense also picked off a pair of passes, securing their sixth consecutive win. While the Cardinal need a couple of upsets of Oregon to get an automatic BCS bid, an at large spot is a possibility, and how well they play against Oregon St. could factor into whether the conference gets a rare second team into the top tier (and top paying) bowls.
The Irish became bowl eligible with a 27-3 win over Army in Yankee Stadium, but will be sending a freshman quarterback, Tommy Rees, up against the Trojans, in only their third true road game of the season.
The Trojans lost quarterback Matt Barkley to a sprained ankle right before halftime against Oregon St., and were without running back Dillion Baxter, due to a dubious golf cart ride with a fellow student turned aspiring agent. Both hope to be back for the Trojans's last home game of the year, but Mitch Mustain looks likely to get the start Saturday.
Washington St. has their second consecutive week off, enjoying Turkey leftovers while waiting to host the Apple Cup.
Two more of Friday's games have relevance to the Pac, involving a future member, and a familiar local BCS berth contender.
It will be the last Big XII regular season game for both teams when the Colorado Buffaloes (5-6, 2-5) visit the #16 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-2, 5-2) at 12:30 PM (2:30 CST) on ABC. Colorado of course is coming to the Pac-12 next year, and Nebraska is going to become the twelfth team in the Big 10. (It's unknown who will be relegated to little status; perhaps it will be rotated, like missed opponents in the schedule.)
Colorado held off repeated Wildcat rallies, and captured their second consecutive win, a 44-36 victory over Kansas St., since changing coaches from Dan Hawkins to Brian Cabral. Another upset will send the Buffaloes to a bowl, and the payoff will assist with their exit expenses, both from the Big XII, and Hawkins' contract.
Nebraska can clinch a spot in the last Big XII conference championship game with a win. The Cornhuskers are coming off a 9-6 loss at Texas A&M that ended any hope they had for an at large BCS berth, making winning the Big XII title game for the conference's automatic berth their only route to the BCS.
A lot is on the line when the #3 Boise St. Broncos (10-0, 6-0) (#4 in the BCS) visit #19 Nevada Wolfpack (10-1, 5-1) at 7:15 on ESPN. The Broncos can win the WAC, and probably pass TCU in the BCS with the win. The addition of a subsequent win over Utah St. could well earn Boise St. a BCS berth, in either the Rose Bowl, or even a shot at the national title. And they will know by the time they take the field if Auburn has stumbled in Tuscaloosa. The Broncos come in fresh off a 51-0 rout of Fresno St., in which Kellen Moore shook off a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers to throw for over 330 yards, and lead Boise St. on scoring drives on eight of their next nine possessions.
But it was the Boise St. defense, which gave up only 125 yards, that really extended the nation's longest winning streak to 24 games.
The Wolf Pack can at best set up a multi-way tie for the WAC, having been upset at Hawaii earlier in the season, but could knock the Broncos out of the BCS picture with a win that would make things very interesting in a couple of years when the two are reunited in the Mountain West Conference. (Boise St. joins the MWC next year, while it will apparently be a year later when Nevada and Fresno St. join them). Whether they can complicate things for Boise St. is questionable, because though they are coming off a 52-6 rout of New Mexico St., the week before, the Wolf Pack only edged the same Bulldog team that the Broncos blasted by a 35-34 margin.
The last late season Holy War happens when the BYU Cougars (6-5, 5-2) visit the #23 Utah Utes (9-2, 6-1) at 12:30 PM Saturday (1:30 MST) on The Mountain. With the Cougars becoming independent, and the Utes leaving the Mt. West for the Pac-12 next season, two of the conference's perennially top three teams will be playing their neighborhood hate war earlier in the season.
The Cougars became bowl eligible with a 40-7 win over New Mexico. The Utes bounced back from back to back losses by a combined 65 points with a narrow 38-34 win at San Diego St.
Ironically, the winner might not even get to the Las Vegas bowl, if Boise St. leaps over TCU, but doesn't reach the BCS Championship game, which could freeze an unbeaten Horned Frogs team out of the BCS, depending on the politics that will ensue over at large berths.