Opportunities for redemption loom in conference title games
SITUATION ROOM: MATCHUP REDUXWith two big rematches occurring in the Big 12 and ACC championship games, we asked former coaches Bob Davie and Bill Curry how they would prepare for Round 2 with an opponent. By Bob Davie, ESPN.com
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Chase Daniel is the key to Missouri's Big 12 and national championship hopes.
The first thing a coach has to do when preparing for a rematch is obvious, but amazingly overlooked: Correct the things that got you beat the first time. There's nothing revolutionary about what I'm saying, but it's astounding how many teams will lose twice to the same opponent for the same reason. In the Missouri-Oklahoma game, the Tigers have to take better care of the ball. Missouri is going up against a bigger, faster opponent. Chase Daniel is a very good quarterback who trusts his arm immensely. Sometimes he tries to squeeze the ball into tight spots; against a team like Oklahoma, he has to be careful. On the other side of the ball, Missouri will have to force Sam Bradford and Co. to make mistakes. The next factor: Make sure the players are not fearful. I'm not talking about being scared of getting hurt; coaches need to ensure their players aren't fearful about being embarrassed again. In football, as in life, we get what we think about, not what we want. The players must think about being efficient and excellent, play after play, with no reference to the scoreboard. On Thursday night, Steve Kragthorpe of Louisville coached his players to think about each play, not the embarrassment of the 2007 season. The result was a stunning comeback against Rutgers, the team that ruined the Cardinals' season the last time they played each other. The psychological aspect of the game is important and often underestimated.
BREAKING DOWN THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMESBy Jim Donnan, ESPN.com
ACC: Boston College vs. Virginia Tech (ABC, 1 p.m. ET)
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Tyrod Taylor brings a new dimension to the Hokies' offense.
When Missouri and Oklahoma met earlier in the season, I was impressed with the way both offenses were able to move the ball. With the exception of the Tigers' four turnovers, the defenses couldn't get off the field. The secret to beating Oklahoma, as Colorado and Texas Tech figured out, is to keep the ball away from the Sooners. Without the turnovers, Missouri could have won that game. Chase Daniel is talented enough to keep up with the Sooners; the key to the game may be his ability to take care of the ball. Unlike in the teams' first meeting, the Tigers have a healthy Tony Temple, which should give them more balance. Both teams have a number of offensive weapons, so open-field tackling will be at a premium. Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford leads the nation in passing efficiency. Although Missouri's defense looked solid against Kansas, the Sooners present a much tougher test. The fact that a win could put Missouri in the BCS National Championship Game and a loss could leave the Tigers possibly out of a BCS bowl entirely is symbolic of the season. SEC: Tennessee vs. LSU
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Erik Ainge has quietly put together a great season.
C-USA: Tulsa vs. UCF ESPN, noon ET
One of college football's most underrated quarterbacks meets one of the sport's best tailbacks when Central Florida and Tulsa play in Saturday's Bright House Networks Conference USA Championship in Orlando. The winner earns a spot in the Dec. 29 Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. Central Florida tailback Kevin Smith leads NCAA Division I-A in rushing with 2,164 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. The junior had one 300-yard game this season and three more with at least 200 yards. Smith needs 179 rushing yards against the Golden Hurricane to move into second place in NCAA history in rushing yards in a season, behind only Barry Sanders' record of 2,628 set at Oklahoma State in 1988. Smith helped lead the Golden Knights to a six-game winning streak to finish the regular season. Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith ranks third in the country in pass efficiency, completing 61.3 percent of his passes for 4,327 yards with 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Central Florida beat Tulsa 44-23 during the regular season, a game in which Smith was intercepted four times. Smith ran for 170 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
PAC-10 POWER STRUGGLES
By By Rod Gilmore, ESPN.comUCLA-USC ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET
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Can Karl Dorrell's team get the best of the Trojans two years in a row?
This time of year, Oregon State is always on the radar. Under coach Mike Riley, the Beavers have hit their stride in late October for the past few seasons. They enter their matchup with Oregon having won five of the past six games. Without Dennis Dixon, Oregon is a team without an identity. The Ducks are scrambling to find a way to move the ball. Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard gives the Beavers a big advantage. He has six games with over 100 yards rushing. Similarly, a few weeks ago, most would have dismissed Arizona against the Sun Devils. Now, the Wildcats are as hot as any team in the conference. Junior Mike Thomas is a dynamic receiver who is a lot of fun to watch. Willie Tuitama is throwing with confidence and beginning to look like the quarterback we expected when he arrived at Arizona. If the Cats' D can put pressure on ASU QB Rudy Carpenter, who has not been well-protected this season, Arizona could pull off the upset.
Viewer's Guide(All times ET) Saturday:
10 a.m.: "College GameDay" from San Antonio (ESPN)
11 a.m.: Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan (ESPN)
Noon: Tulsa vs. UCF (ESPN)
1 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College (ABC)
4:30 p.m.: UCLA at USC (ABC)
Oregon State at Oregon (ESPN2)
7:45 p.m.: Pittsburgh at West Virginia (ESPN)
8 p.m.: Oklahoma vs/ Missouri (ABC)
Arizona at Arizona State (ESPN2)
11:30 p.m.: Washington at Hawaii (ESPN2)
• Schedule | GamePlan
By Ivan Maisel, ESPN.com
Craig James: Senior Tribute
Jim Donnan: BC-Va. Tech
By Jim Donnan, ESPN.comEach week, I'll propose a rule change I think would benefit college football. Sound off on the Conversation page and let me know what you'd like to see changed. I'd like to see the NCAA change the pass interference penalty. In college, the offending team is penalized 15 yards. In the pros, the ball is put on the line where the interference occurred. Fifteen yards isn't enough to keep players from grabbing a guy and interfering in a big play. What do you think, SportsNation? Sound off.
EA Sports Preview: Missouri-Oklahoma
What We've Learned This Season
By Bob Davie, ESPN.com• Preseason predictions aren't perfect. Before the season started, USC was among those in "the best team of all time" debate. Michigan was a national title contender. Chad Henne and John David Booty were Heisman front-runners. Starting with Appalachian State's win, this has been one of the most chaotic seasons in college football • Thanks to the spread offense. There's no question the evolution of the spread is the biggest reason we're seeing the balance of power swing in college football. The effect of this is both near- and far-reaching. First, in order to defend the spread, it's nearly becoming a necessity for the team to run the spread. Michigan is the perfect example; the Wolverines had trouble with mobile quarterbacks because they didn't practice against one. Secondly, the prevalence of the spread limits the number of NFL-ready quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see how Chase Daniel, Pat White and Tim Tebow fare at the next level, where QBs aren't asked to run the ball as much. Matt Ryan and John David Booty are among the few NFL prototypes at the position this season. Will the NFL adapt its offenses to take advantage of these athletes' talents? Or will the NFL offenses stay the same, but the pool of quarterbacks will be diminished? • Because the spread has become college football's latest great equalizer, nontraditional powers are finding ways to win. One of the repercussions is that it has made the coaching profession even more volatile. Administrators at a host of schools now feel that they too can hit the jackpot with a coaching change.
Beano Cook: Army-Navy
By The Numbers
By ESPN Research