Thanksgiving weekend is full of some fierce rivalry games, but we all know there's really only one that counts.
I am thankful for many things this week, friends. For turkeys and family and a full weekend of football and the fact that - and you may have noticed this - the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the number one football team in the land. Now, this fact - and that one game separating the Irish and a national championship - have kept me teetering on the brink of insanity all week. It's not healthy, and the Saturday night cannot get here fast enough. Thankfully, there is a full slate of football between now and Saturday night that may help to take your mind off of the battle for the jeweled shillelagh. (Just kidding, it won't.)
(All times are Eastern and all rankings are BCS.)
Thursday, November 22nd:
#16 Texas at TCU, 7:30pm, ESPN: The Horned Frogs take the Aggies' place as Texas' Thanksgiving weekend opponent, and this game actually has some mild stakes: With wins in their final two games, the Horns could potentially salvage an up-and-down season with a BCS berth. It would require taking down the Wildcats and either A) Oklahoma losing Bedlam or B) The BCS just preferring 10-2 Texas to 10-2 Kansas State, but it's possible. In the last couple weeks, a couple of people have given me the unsolicited information that TCU is going to be really good in the next couple years, so this is your chance do some early scouting of Gary Patterson's team.
Friday, November 23rd:
#14 Nebraska at Iowa, 12:00pm, ESPN: Pretty simple for the Huskers: Win their next two games, play in the Rose Bowl. Iowa has just been miserable this season and can't even salvage a bowl with a victory here, so this is their only chance to make some kind of mark on the 2012 season. Did you know Kirk Ferentz makes almost four million a year? That's fun.
#7 LSU at Arkansas, 2:30pm, CBS: With a win here, the Bayou Bengals keep themselves in the conversation for a BCS bowl, as they could easily be chosen to replace the SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl. (So could the SEC championship loser, Florida or A&M, but hey we're keeping options open.) The Razorbacks had a season dreamt up in the mind of a demon, and while a bowl is out of the question, screwing with Les Miles is not.
#25 Washington at Washington State, 3:30pm, Fox: Apple Cup! A Washington team that survived a brutal early schedule (LSU, Stanford, Oregon, USC) and is now in position to knock down their rival and finish up PAC12 play at 6-3. On the other side is Mike Leach, whose first season in Pullman has not gone particularly well. Desperate pirate in a rivalry game? Desperate pirate in a rivalry game.
Arizona at #24 Arizona State, 10:00pm, ESPN: A very fun nightcap, as both teams have earned bowl bids and some nice wins under first-year coaches. The Duel in the Desert should involve some points, some hard hits and a lot of comely coeds. Not a bad way to transition into Saturday. (Fun fact: The final score of the first meeting was 11-2 back in 1899.)
Saturday, November 24th:
Georgia Tech at #3 Georgia, 12:00pm, ESPN: If Notre Dame loses, this game is one potential safeguard for an All-SEC title game. The Jackets have been getting handled lately by their Peach State rivals and if they fall here, they could potentially come out of the ACC title game at 6-7. Your conference runner-up is under .500? Go ACC.
Connecticut at #20 Louisville/#18 Rutgers at Pittsburgh, 12:00pm, Big East Network/ESPN2: If the Cardinals win, they set up a winner-take-all clash at the Scarlet Knights next week. If the Huskies spring the upset at Papa Johns and Rutgers can handle business at Pittsburgh, Kyle Flood's team will clinch the Big East's BCS berth and trip to the Orange Bowl. Who says Jim Delany doesn't know what he's doing? (Everyone.)
#19 Michigan at Ohio State, 12:00pm, ABC: A lot of fun things here. After years of frustration against Tressel, Michigan could actually put together a modest two-game win streak with a victory in Columbus. They'd also possibly move themselves into the conversation for a BCS bid if they can slide into the top 14. For Ohio State, it's an undefeated season and a potential (but unlikely) crack at the AP national championship. Your early game to watch.
#5 Oregon at #15 Oregon State, 3:30pm, PAC12Network: Still can't stop smiling about Oregon's loss, after hearing all season about their style points against a bunch of mediocre competition. The Ducks now must travel to their rival after an absurdly physical game with Stanford and try to upset a Beaver team that has been really, really solid all season. Win here and the Beavers have an outside shot at the BCS. If the Ducks lose, it would be a rather stunning fall from grace.
#4 Florida at #10 Florida State, 3:30pm, ABC: This is the biggest and best safeguard from an all-SEC BCS title game should the Irish lose, as the Seminoles host a Gators team that has been stumbling through the last month of the season. If FSU wins here, they keep their national title hopes alive, but they're still looking at an Orange Bowl game against a Big East team as long as they don't lose to Georgia Tech next week.
#21 Oklahoma State at #13 Oklahoma, 3:30pm, ESPN: BEDLAAAAAM. Last year the Cowboys absolutely embarrassed the Sooners en route to the conference title, so this is Landry Jones' chance at vengeance. A win here keeps Sooner hope alive for both the conference title and an at-large BCS berth. A loss would be Bob Stoops' third at home this season, which could indeed portend the end of the world.
Auburn at #2 Alabama, 3:30pm, CBS: This game is terrible and I almost didn't put it on here, but a miracle win by the Tigers would cause plenty of BCS and SEC West chaos. But let me stress: It would take divine intervention for Gene Chizik to win this game and attempt to keep his job.
#8 Stanford at #17 UCLA, 6:30pm, Fox: Really interesting game here that will be made more intriguing after Oregon/Oregon State ends: UCLA is in the PAC12 title game, but they could potentially decide their opponent. If Stanford wins, they'll play the Cardinal. If they defeat Stanford, they could face Oregon, should the Ducks win. I doubt Jim Mora does anything but try his damnedest to win this thing, but Bruin fans might not be too upset with a loss setting up a rematch.
#12 South Carolina at #11 Clemson, 7:00pm, ESPN: South Carolina has had a really weird season, from blowing out Georgia to losing two straight to LSU and Florida and getting locked out of the SEC title game with a month to go in the season. Clemson's title game lockout occurred back in September when they lost to FSU, with any hope of stealing a spot in their conference title game dashed by the Noles' come-from-behind win at Blacksburg. With a win here, Dabo could put the Tigers in contention for a BCS berth for the second straight year, which is strange and wondrous and so Clemson.
Missouri at #9 Texas A&M, 7:00pm, ESPN2: Texas A&M is playing for Johnny Manziel Heisman. Missouri is playing to become bowl eligible. I don't like the Tigers' chances, but I'll be rooting for their defense.
#1 Notre Dame at Southern Cal, 8:00pm, ABC: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH