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Thursday, November 12, 2009
TCU will be seeing red Saturday

ESPN.com

Hot And Spicy

By Rece Davis, ESPN.com

Take a look at those red stripes on TCU's new helmets Saturday. They represent the blood that horned frogs can shoot out of their eyes when they get angry or cornered.

They also could represent the red the Frogs saw after letting last year's game against Utah slip away. I watched that game live, then watched it a couple of more times in preparation to call TCU's Poinsettia Bowl matchup with Boise State. It was hard to believe the Frogs let it get away. Gary Patterson said it was the toughest locker room he'd been in after a game.

Jerry Hughes

Vladimir Cherry-US PRESSWIRE

Jerry Hughes leads a ferocious TCU defense.

Rest assured, the Frogs remember the Utes' breaking their hearts while preserving their perfect season. Revenge shouldn't top the agenda when you have as much at stake as TCU does, but a little extra spice makes it fun.

Andy Dalton is leading his team as well as any quarterback in the country. He has one of the most explosive playmakers in college football at his disposal in wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. The Frogs' offense is balanced and explosive.

But the biggest matchup advantage for the Frogs is their experienced defense, which is well-versed in Patterson's plethora of schemes against freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn of Utah. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham made a bold move to change his quarterback midseason. Wynn has given Utah's offense a spark and a little rhythm, but this matchup figures to be a different world for Wynn. I imagine he'll become well-acquainted with Horned Frogs pass-rushing demon Jerry Hughes, who looks as if he's shooting blood out of his eyes when he goes after quarterbacks.

Utah is an excellent team again and is so good in big games. Whittingham is a master at pushing the right buttons to rev up his troops, so motivation won't be the issue. Handling the nation's third-best defense and containing the eighth-best offense will be extraordinarily problematic.

TCU looks like the better team to me. I think it would give the big three of Florida, Alabama and Texas all they wanted.

I think Saturday's game will further validate the Mountain West in terms of being competitive with the big six conferences. I believe the league is proving itself worthy of a guaranteed BCS bowl bid every year.

Meanwhile, as some teams pursue championships, others have shifted gears for S.S. games: Season Salvagers.

Notre Dame is first on that list. The latest biggest game of Charlie Weis' career and referendum on his future is in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Weis

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

What does the future hold for Charlie Weis?

Five years ago Weis and Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt made their college coaching debuts against each other. It was a resounding Irish win. I'm not sure beating Pitt this time would rekindle the optimism felt on that September Saturday five seasons ago, but it sure couldn't hurt. It's mind-boggling that the Irish under Weis have beaten only one team that finished the season ranked and have never beaten a team that finished with fewer than four losses.

I think Pitt is legit. Bill Stull is the most overlooked quarterback in the country. Dion Lewis is a blur at running back. If the Panthers hadn't blown a lead against NC State, they would be lurking along with Cincinnati on the periphery of the national championship picture.

This is a real opportunity for Notre Dame and Weis to prove they can beat an outstanding 8-1 team. What would that mean for Weis' job security? Only Notre Dame's administration knows that for sure. I think it's unwise to put a win total on this season and say Weis has to meet it. What's more important in my estimation is how the Irish are playing. Are they playing with passion? Do the players appear to believe they can win? Yes, ultimately you are what your record says you are. But I'm more eager to see whether the Irish play with desire and discipline. That would show me their coach hasn't lost them.

During our Final Verdict segment on "College Football Final," the judge (me in the puffy robe) ruled in favor of plaintiff Mark May, who said it was time to start the proceedings for a change in South Bend after Notre Dame's loss to Navy. I offered the caveat that if the Irish finished strong, the ruling could be overturned. I referenced the mantra often attributed to Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley on his decision to fire Ron Zook in 2004: What must be done eventually should be done immediately. In this case, immediately means after the season.

If Notre Dame face-plants down the stretch, it will be a hard sell to say the Irish should stay the course. Some say the question is financial. Would Notre Dame be willing to pay off Weis? Sure, it could afford it. The better question is whether it could afford not to make a move. Make no mistake, the Pitt game is huge for the perception of the direction of the Irish program under Weis.

Ben Tate

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Ben Tate has helped give Auburn fans new hope this season.

Although no coaching-change implications are involved, Ole Miss can save some face by beating Tennessee at home. The Rebels' season has crashed like a Bernie Madoff retirement fund. Beating the resurgent Vols would salvage a little worth. For Tennessee, a win could put it on the road to a New Year's Day bowl.

The Deep South's oldest rivalry, Auburn and Georgia, carries similar storylines. Auburn has been surprising this season, while Georgia has been surprisingly bad. This isn't one of those blood-feud rivalries in which one side hates every wretched breath the other sucks into its greedy lungs. This is more like cousins wrestling at a family reunion. It gets intense and competitive, and tempers might even flare, but at the end, they're still family.

There are just so many deep ties between the programs. Vince Dooley played at Auburn and made his coaching legend between the hedges at Georgia. Pat Dye did the same things in the opposite direction. Shug Jordan, Auburn's winningest football coach, was once the head basketball coach at Georgia. In the old days, the two administrations used to collect the gate receipts in a cigar box and meet afterward to divide the proceeds right down the middle.

The 5-4 Bulldogs desperately need to win this family feud. Georgia has been less junkyard dog and more bichon frise. The Dogs are searching for a spark. With Georgia Tech still ahead, a loss could send this season spiraling to disaster and possibly ending with the Dogs left home during bowl season.

The Tigers, much like Tennessee, could soar up the bowl pecking order with a win and spend an off week plotting ways to foil archrival Alabama's national championship hopes.

Some teams will save their season from the scrap heap. We'll show you who and how they did it on "College Football Final" late Saturday night.

Weekend Watch

By Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com

Big Ten
1. Which team will win the Big Ten championship?

The Big Ten championship -- and a trip to the Rose Bowl -- will be on the line when No. 10 Iowa visits No. 11 Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes will be big favorites after the Hawkeyes lost quarterback Ricky Stanzi to a badly sprained ankle in last week's 17-10 loss to Northwestern.

Iowa freshman QB James Vandenberg, who had played only one series in Iowa's first nine games, looked uncomfortable against the Wildcats. It won't be any easier against Ohio State, which has the country's No. 6-ranked defense.

Stanford
2. Can Stanford do it again?

The last time the Cardinal played at USC, they stunned the Trojans as a 41-point underdog. Stanford is coming off an upset of Oregon, and it could be argued it has a better team than USC this season.

But Pete Carroll has never lost in 28 November games as USC's coach, and the Trojans have won 12 consecutive contests at the Coliseum. Still, USC will have to slow down Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, the Pac-10's most efficient passer, and tailback Toby Gerhart, the country's No. 2 rusher.

South Carolina
3. Should Florida be concerned about facing the Ol' Ball Coach?

South Carolina appears headed for another late-season swoon, but Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier probably would like nothing more than to knock off his alma mater.

South Carolina's defensive line is very good when healthy, and the Gators have struggled to protect star quarterback Tim Tebow. He has been sacked a career-high 21 times, including 15 times in the past four games.

WEEK: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13

Viewers' Guide

(All times ET)

Thursday:
7:30 p.m.: South Florida at Rutgers (ESPN)

Friday:
8 p.m.: West Virginia at Cincinnati (ESPN2)

Saturday:
10 a.m.: "College GameDay" from Fort Worth (ESPN)
Noon: Georgia Tech at Duke (ESPN2)
3:30 p.m.: Iowa at Ohio State (ABC)
Miami at North Carolina (ABC)
Florida at South Carolina
Idaho at Boise State (ESPNU)
Stanford at USC
7 p.m.: Alabama at Mississippi State (ESPN)
Arizona at Cal
7:30 p.m.: Utah at TCU
8 p.m.: Notre Dame at Pitt (ABC)
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (ABC)

College football schedule | ESPN GamePlan
Coverage maps: Week 11

Herbie: Utah-TCU preview

Blog Network: What To Watch

Each week, our bloggers will take a closer look at the storylines you should be watching. What's on tap for Week 11?

If Georgia Tech and Clemson win, and Boston College loses at Virginia, we will know by the end of this week who will play in the ACC championship game.
ACC

Six Big 12 teams can earn bowl eligibility by winning on Saturday.
Big 12

West Virginia will either be eliminated from the Big East title race or be right in the thick of things depending on Friday's game against Cincinnati.
Big East

The Michigan State-Purdue contest could serve as a bowl play-in game, as both teams are trying to squeak into the postseason after battling inconsistency.
Big Ten

It's fairly simple. If Stanford wins at USC, it's likely that one of the great runs in the history of college football will come to an end.
Pac-10

Although this league has a defensive reputation, three of the best big-play offensive artists in the country have resided in the SEC this season.
SEC

Non-AQs: Boise State found out the hard way last week that style points do matter when you're fighting for your BCS bowl life.
Around the nation

BCS Minute: Tough Games Ahead

Picking The Winners

Want to know what our experts think will happen this weekend? Our bloggers and ESPN The Magazine's Bruce Feldman give their predictions for Week 11.

Feldman Insider | ACC | Big 12 | Big East
Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQs

CFB Live Extra: Weekend Preview

The Nickel Package

Alabama has a chance to add to a couple of its NCAA records on Saturday. With a win at Mississippi State, the Crimson Tide would start a season 10-0 for the 17th time and record the program's 22nd winning streak of 10 or more games. The next-most 10-0 starts is 12, shared by Michigan, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The next-most win streaks of 10-plus games is 16, shared by Michigan and Nebraska.

Each week, ESPN Stats & Information provides five nuggets on the upcoming games. For the rest of the list, click here. Insider

CFB Live Extra: Midseason QBs

Fantasy College Football

Check out College Football Challenge, our new fantasy game. Each week, our fantasy gurus will provide players or units that should be on Challenge owners' radars.

Weis' Future At ND