Week 14: College football around the nation

The BCS National Championship Game is far from finalized — though it’s looking more likely LSU and Alabama will be the teams squaring off Jan. 9 in Louisiana — but a number of intriguing matchups fill the final week of college football’s regular season, including conference championship matchups in the SEC, ACC, Big-10 and Pac-12. Here’s a look at some of the top games around the country.

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 12 Georgia (SEC Championship Game), 1 p.m., CBS

Even if Georgia pulls the upset, the top-ranked Tigers would likely face Alabama in the BCS title game. But LSU’s season-long dominance makes a loss appear unlikely. The Tigers have the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense and have held opponents to 11 or less points in eight games this season. Meanwhile, despite winning 10 games in a row, the Bulldogs haven’t been dominant — four of their past five victories over SEC teams have come by single digits. Georgia won’t be short on motivation, either. A win would send the Bulldogs to the Sugar Bowl while a loss would knock them out of the BCS picture completely.

No. 13 Oklahoma at No. 3 Oklahoma State, 5 p.m., ABC

The winner of the annual Bedlam rivalry matchup will win the Big-12 (since the conference has only 10 teams, it no longer has a conference championship game), and earn a bid to the Fiesta Bowl. On the surface, both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma are similar. Both teams feature talented quarterbacks (Brandon Weeden for the Cowboys,@@changed from Branden: Landry [email protected]@ for the Sooners), electric receivers (Justin [email protected]@ of Oklahoma State and Kenny [email protected]@ of Oklahoma, who has assumed more responsibility since leading receiver Ryan [email protected]@ was sidelined with a knee injury), and average defenses (Oklahoma is 28th in points allowed, Oklahoma State 64th). Will the first team to score 50 points be BCS bowl bound?

No. 21 Clemson vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech (ACC Championship Game), 5 p.m., ESPN

Clemson has a chance to at least partially salvage another disappointing season by beating the Hokies and earning the ACC’s automatic BCS bid. The winner will earn a ticket to Miami for the Orange Bowl. When the teams met earlier this season, the Tigers blasted the Hokies 23-3. Clemson has lost three of its past four games, however, including an embarrassing 37-13 loss to a mediocre North Carolina State team. Unless Tiger quarterback Tajh [email protected]@ and a young Clemson roster (the Tigers have played 29 freshmen this season) can rediscover their early-season rhythm, the Hokies will likely be back in the BCS for the fourth time in five seasons.

No. 15 Wisconsin vs. No. 11 Michigan State, 5:17 p.m., FOX

The inaugural Big-10 title game is a rematch of one of the best games of the year in college football, which the Spartans won 37-31 on a last-second Hail Mary. Yet Wisconsin is a nearly ten-point favorite this time in large part because of its recent success. The Badgers have won their past four games, each by double digits, and feature a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate (running back Montee [email protected]@ and one of the nation’s top quarterbacks (Russell [email protected]@ The Spartans have also won four-straight games, but had the second half of their season marred by an ugly 24-3 loss to Nebraska in late October.

Other key games:

No. 24 Southern Mississippi vs. No. 7 Houston, 9 a.m., ABC

Sixth-year senior quarterback Case [email protected]@ and Houston are on the verge of securing an automatic bid to a BCS game but will face one final test in Southern Mississippi and the Golden Eagles’ 25th-ranked scoring defense.

No. 7 Boise State at New Mexico, 3 p.m.

If Houston wins, Boise State may find itself left out of a BCS bowl, shut out of the automatic bid reserved for the highest ranked non-AQ. There’s still a possibility the Broncos could earn an at-large bid if the chips fall correctly, however. Factor in the emotion of Kellen Moore’[email protected]@ (and possibly Chris Petersen’[email protected]@ final regular season game, and Boise State seems unlikely to suffer a shocking upset.

Texas at No. 19 Baylor, 12:30 p.m., ABC

While this matchup has no bearing on the conference championship or BCS games, it could make or break the resurgent Heisman Trophy campaign of Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin [email protected]@ RG3 has dominated many Big-12 defenses, but the Longhorns, who possess the nation’s ninth-ranked defense, will pose a stiff test.

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