There's just 1 game actually involving Pac-12 teams, and because of the, ah, potentially one-sided outcome of the initial Pac-12 Championship game (UCLA opened the week as a 30 point underdog, and the spread increased after the subsequent coach firing in Westwood), some have already speculated that it might be better for all concerned if more people opted for movie night Friday night.
UCLA (6-6, 5-4) at #9 Oregon (10-2, 8-1) at 5 PM PST on Fox.
The Bruins backed into the Pac-12 South Division's berth despite a 50-0 loss to AP #9 USC (10-2, 7-2) that led to UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel being "relieved of his duties" as soon as Friday night's game is over. With the Trojans, who a week before had become the only conference team to beat Oregon ineligible for the post season, Utah's 17-14 loss to Colorado on Friday, after missing two 4th quarter field goals, ended the intrigue in the South Division. The Buffs' first road win in over 4 years not only eliminated the Utes, it also eliminated the tie breaker Arizona St. could have had. The Sun Devils celebrated by losing to California 47-38 Friday night.
UCLA will be going to a bowl, the Rose if they spring the conference upset of the century, at least since the first Stanford win of the decade over USC, and much more likely the Kraft Fight Huger (and losing) Bowl in San Francisco, or the New Mexico Bowl if the BCS snubs the Cardinal. The Bruins applied for and were granted an exemption by the NCAA to the rule that requires teams that do not win an automatic bowl berth to have a .500 or better record, in the event they don't pull out Friday night's game. But Neuheisel won't be leading them, as Bruins offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Mike Johnson will coach the bowl game, unless possibly UCLA has a new head coach on board by then, and just can't wait to get started.
The Bruins will need to find considerable improvement defensively to hold an audience even until halftime, after they gave up 572 yards, including 423 yards, and 6 passing touchdowns, to USC's Matt Barkley.
The Ducks bounced back from their 38-35 home loss to USC by routing Oregon St. 49-21 to claim the Pac-12 Northern Division, and the right to host the first ever Conference Championship Game that didn't happen to be a regularly scheduled game (the Civil War for the Roses in 2009 being the last such event; USC and UCLA have squared off similarly before as well).
Oregon's Darron Thomas threw for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns, and the Ducks ran for an additional 365 yards, 142 and the game's first touchdown by LaMichael James, who, despite injuring his elbow (he's sprained both of them now) in the third quarter, is still the nation's leading rusher.
David Paulson hauled in 8 of Da. Thomas' throws, for 150 yards and a touchdown, De'Anthony Thomas rolled up 197 yards of total offense, and Kenjon Barner added 97 more as Oregon rolled over Oregon St., and coach Chip Kelly called off the dogs for most of the 4th quarter.
Since they will have a full month until the Rose Bowl, which is on Jan. 2 next year, who knows how Kelly will go about trying to keep his team as sharp as possible.While that's the only conference game of the weekend, there are some other games of more than passing importance to the conference.
#13 Michigan St. (10-2, 7-1) vs. #15 Wisconsin (10-2, 6-2) at 8 PM EST (5 PM PST) Saturday in Indianapolis, IN, in the first ever Big 10 Championship Game, which will determine the other entrant into the Rose Bowl. Since Oregon has lost their last two season ending BCS Bowls, assuming they survive the onslaught of the Bruins, Ducks everywhere will be especially interested in scouting this game. Closely ranked, it should be a good game as well, possibly similar to the Spartan's 37-31 win in the teams' first meeting, when they beat the Badgers with a touchdown pass on the last play of the game.
#10 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) at #3 Oklahoma St. (10-1, 7-1) at 7 PM CST (5 PM PDT) on ABC Saturday. Bedlam will determine the Big XII Championship, and could remove the Cowboys from being ahead of #4 Stanford. Or send them to the BCS National Championship Game. It's doubtful the Cardinal could get up to the #2 spot, but it requires Oklahoma St. to lose. It could also determine if the Cardinal even hang on to the #4 spot, which guarantees that they must be awarded a BCS Bowl berth. If they should slip to #5, or lower, then the notoriously sparse Stanford crowd becomes a factor in filling a stadium, as any other team in the BCS equation save some possibilities for the Big East's guaranteed berth will be more attractive options as far as both fan attendance and television ratings goes. And if that should happen, in addition to bumping every other Pac-12 bowl team besides the UCLA-Oregon winner down a notch, it will cost each of the 12 members over a half million dollars, their share ot a BCS bowl payout.
#5 Virginia Tech (11-1, 7-1) vs. #20 Clemson (9-3, 6-2) at 8 PM EST (5 PM PST) on ESPN Saturday in Charlotte, NC. An impressive win by the Hokies in the ACC Championship game, which would avenge their only loss, 23-3 to these same Tigers back on Oct. 1, could persuade some voters and computers to promote Virginia Tech, and veteran coach Frank Beamer, over Stanford.
#6 Houston (12-0, 8-0) vs. #24 Southern Mississippi (10-2, 6-2) at 11 AM CST (9 AM PST) on ABC Saturday in Memphis, TN. In addition to Houston potentially coming into contention with Stanford for available BCS bids, its also a chance to look at a couple of the top coaching prospects to move elsewhere sooner than later. Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is Arizona St.'s favored candidate for the opening their after sending Dennis Erickson packing. However, Texas A&M, who is SEC bond after their bowl game, has decided to fire coach Mike Sherman, and enter the Sumlin derby.
With all the tumultuous turnover, Sumlin could have a tough decision to make, as his shot this season at a BCS bowl with the Cougars and quarterback Case Keenum is better than its likely to be for a while in either the SEC or the Pac-12. And Eagles coach Larry Fedora also enters the picture, as another leading candidate for coaching openings.
New Mexico (1-10, 1-5) at #7 Boise St. (10-1, 5-1) at 4 PM MST (3 PM PDT) Saturday on The Mountain. The Broncos can't even win the Mt. West, as a result of a missed field goal at the end of the TCU game, which allowed the Horned Frogs to go on to win in overtime. But an impressive win over the Lobos could still get them into a BCS bowl game, depending on other upsets. Or, they could be an opponent for some hapless Pac-12 also run (Arizona St.?) in the Las Vegas Bowl. Erickson's last stand with the Sun Devils could get really ugly against an angry Bronco team.
It's also a chance to take a look at Broncos coach Chris Petersen, UCLA's preferred choice to replace Neuheisel.
#14 Georgia (10-2, 7-1) vs. #1 LSU (12-0, 8-0) at 4 PM EST (1 PM PST) in Atlanta, GA. The SEC Championship game should see the Tigers maul the Bulldogs. But an upset would cause BCS Chaos. Not only would the Bulldogs crash the BCS party, it would open the door to 3 SEC teams getting in, as LSU would still advance, possibly even to the BCS title game, and #2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) will get some BCS berth in any event.
Having a National Championship game involving 2 teams that didn't even win their conference could be the insanity that forces some kind of playoff, at least a +1 game, sooner than later. That would have a lasting affect of the world of college sports, never mind just college football, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the inception of the BCS concept.
Rarely ever have so many big games not involving Pac-12 games had so much impact on the conference and its members in one day. Might be a good time to put new batteries into that remote.