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November 14, 2006

Spot in BCS title game up for grabs

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The College Football Wire

Get the inside scoop on your favorite team:

If you haven't heard, Ohio State and Michigan play Saturday.

It's kind of a big deal.

One of the biggest rivalry games in college football will decide one of the spots in the national championship game.

If only it were as easy to pick the opponent for either the Buckeyes or the Wolverines.

USC, Florida and Rutgers are among teams in contention for the national title, but each has issues to resolve in the coming weeks.

Those issues and how they could be resolved are topics in this week's top five questions that will define Week 12.


Five Questions for Week 12
1. What will be the keys to the Ohio State-Michigan game?
Since you'll hear about this every day for the rest of the week, we'll keep this short and sweet. For Ohio State, the key is how Troy Smith and the Buckeyes' offense match up with the Michigan defense. Like every other Michigan opponent this season, the Buckeyes' running game could stall against the Wolverines' No. 1 rush defense. Ohio State will likely need big days from Smith and receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. The Wolverines, who have lost four of the last five to Ohio State, will need a healthy Mario Manningham to stretch the offense. Manningham returned against Indiana to catch two passes for 11 yards. The Wolverines will need better production from Manningham to keep up with Ohio State.
Video feature: Top 10 games in Ohio State-Michigan rivalry
2. Is USC is back to normal after the loss to Oregon State on Oct. 28?
It would appear so after the Trojans have outscored Stanford and Oregon 77-10 combined in the last two games. Even more encouraging for USC is the play of its veterans in the last three games. Preseason All-conference defensive end Lawrence Jackson had his first three sacks of the season against Pac-10 foe Oregon last week. Junior running back Chauncey Washington carried the load against the Ducks with 119 yards and three touchdowns. Receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith appear to be healthy again. The Trojans, ranked third in the BCS standings, are in good position for a spot in the national title game if they can get past Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA.
3. What does Florida need to fix against Western Carolina?
After wrapping up the SEC East, Florida will face Division I-AA Western Carolina this weekend. The Gators will finish the season with trips to Florida State and the SEC Championship Game. Florida is looking to ease its way into the national championship game, but has several issues it needs to address. Since the loss to Auburn, Florida beat Georgia by seven, Vanderbilt by six and South Carolina by one. Including the loss to Auburn, the Gators have been outscored 52-27 in the second half of the last four games. A break from the SEC schedule should help linebackers Brandon Siler (knee) and Earl Everett (ankle) and wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) recover from injuries while working on problems that have surfaced in the second half of this season.
4. Can Rutgers get into the national title hunt?
Rutgers' win over Louisville, combined with three one-loss teams becoming two-loss teams this weekend, has put the Scarlet Knights into the sixth spot of the Bowl Championship Series standings behind Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida and Notre Dame. The computers love Rutgers, giving the Knights an average ranking of second. Four the six computer rankings have Rutgers ahead of Ohio State. Rutgers' eighth-place ranking in the coaches' poll and seventh-place ranking in the Harris poll are hurting the Knights in the BCS. "You can't rule them out, but you need an epiphany from voters for them (to reach the title game)," said Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com. "Voters will have to start moving them up for them to pass one loss teams. Voters have made it clear they don't have a lot of faith in Rutgers." In short, the computers say yes, the human voters say no.
5. What effect will Butch Davis have on North Carolina?
The Tar Heels' only win this year is against Division I-AA Furman. Don't expect that distinction to last long. Davis recruited the foundation of Miami's 2001 national championship team and the 2002 team which finished runner-up in the title race. When he returns to college football, Davis will be in a fertile recruiting state that is not dominated by a single program. Before firing John Bunting, North Carolina already had the nation's No. 16 recruiting class. The group is led by five-star wide receiver Dwight Jones, four-star quarterback Mike Paulus and four-star running back Ryan Houston. If Davis recruits well in-state, he could have Mack Brown-like success in Chapel Hill.
Top Five Games of Week 12
1. No. 2 Michigan (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) at No. 1 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten), 3:30 p.m., ABC
The long wait is over for the game of the year. The winner is headed to the national championship game. Will the loser do the same?
2. No. 17 Cal (8-2, 6-1 Pac-10) at No. 4 USC (8-1, 6-1 Pac-10), 8 p.m., ABC
Lost a little luster after Cal was upset by Arizona last week. The winner should claim the Pac-10 title. USC could pad its national championship game resume.
3. No. 19 Virginia Tech (8-2, 4-2 ACC) at No. 14 Wake Forest (9-1, 5-1 ACC), 7 p.m., ESPN2
Wake Forest's dream season continues after shutting out Florida State in Tallahassee. The Hokies are another barrier to Wake Forest's ACC title aspirations.
4. No. 21 Maryland (8-2, 5-1 ACC) at No. 20 Boston College (8-2, 4-2 ACC), noon, ESPN
If Wake Forest and Maryland win Saturday, next week's game between the Terps and Demon Deacons will send the winner to the ACC Championship Game.
5. No. 8 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1 Big East) at Pittsburgh (6-4, 2-3 Big East), Thursday 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Mountaineers still hope to win the Big East, but will have to win the Backyard Brawl first.




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