As part of BCS Know How’s 2010 college football season preview, we will be breaking down each week’s most important games that could have BCS and postseason implications in the “Road to Glendale 2011.″
Let’s move on to Week 13 where the Iron Bowl, Backyard Brawl and Sunshine Showdown rivalries will headline Thanksgiving weekend.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh: Friday Nov. 26, TBA
The Backyard Brawl rivalry is a huge game no matter the records of the Panthers and Mountaineers. However, in 2010, this could be an essential piece in the puzzle for either teams’ hopes of a Big East conference title and BCS bowl bid.
In the wide-open Big East, West Virginia and Pittsburgh are the favorites to capture the conference crown and when Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, this game could decide the Big East’s 2010 champion.
Both teams will rely on their top-level talent at running back—West Virginia trotting out Noel Devine and Pittsburgh keying Heisman hopeful Dion Lewis.
Running backs aside, both teams are well balanced and experienced around the field, but the key to the game might be the offensive lines. With strong running backs and quarterbacks who are not well-tested, the protection and movement at the point of attack will be of the utmost importance.
Pittsburgh lost three interior lineman from last season’s team, and may struggle to adapt to the new line early, but will hope to have things worked out by the time this game comes along. If the Panther line can get itself together, Lewis could easily be a late season Heisman favorite.
West Virginia is lucky to return a group of young but experienced group on the offensive line and will hope that they stay injury-free to protect Devine and pocket-passing quarterback (yes a pocket passer at West Virginia) Geno Smith.
Auburn at Alabama: Friday Nov. 26, TBA
As a part of the Crimson Tide’s run to the National Championship Game last season, they had to squeak by the Tigers in the annual Iron Bowl rivalry game. The five-point victory was a surprise to some, seeing as the Tide had crushed Auburn in the previous year, 36-0.
Now that Auburn looks to making its way back to the form that allowed for six straight victories in the rivalry from 2002-2007, this game could turn out to be a classic in the making.
Add to that the preseason hype the Tigers are getting and that many predict the Tigers could be undefeated when the 2010 edition of the Iron Bowl rolls around, and this could be the defining game of the SEC schedule in 2010.
On the line in Tuscaloosa could be the SEC Western Division crown and positioning in the BCS standings.
The faces on Alabama should be pretty familiar to those on the visiting Auburn squad. However, Auburn must replace a large portion of their starting rotation including filling holes at running back and quarterback along with inserting new talent on the defensive line.
No matter whether the Tigers can gel by the time the game comes up or not, don’t expect a repeat of the 2008 shellacking by either side—this game could prove one of the most entertaining of the month.
Florida at Florida State: Saturday Nov. 27, TBA
A non-conference rivalry catchup in the midst of conference positioning throughout the country might seem like a unnecessary showcase for the time of year, but this year’s version of the rivalry could hold feature something we haven’t seen since 2003—a Seminole victory.
True the Gators will likely be favored in the match-up despite the Tallahassee setting of this year’s rivalry game, but for the first time since 2005, a tight, hard-fought game is expected and both teams have a great chance of coming into the match-up with a BCS bowl bid in their near future.
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder is capable of picking apart any defense, and Florida is no exception.
And for the first time since before the Tim Tebow era, the Seminoles can say that their quarterback is just as big of a weapon as the Gators’ man behind center.
That is not to say, however, that by Week 13 Florida’s new quarterback, John Brantley, will not have complete control over the Gator offense and be orchestrating yet another trip to the BCS National Championship Game for the Gators and coach Urban Meyer.
Boise State at Nevada: Saturday Nov. 27, TBA
Despite the Broncos having another game in Week 14, this game may be the make or break game of their year.
Victories against Virginia Tech and Oregon State early in the season would easily put Boise on their way to a BCS bowl bid and an undefeated record, but this trip to Nevada to play an always tough Wolfpack could prove the last step towards an undefeated 2010 season.
The Wolfpack are favored to be the only team able to unseat the Broncos from atop the Western Athletic Conference, making this match-up a de facto conference title game as well, only adding to the pressure Boise State will likely feel coming into the meeting.
Last season’s edition of this WAC rivalry was a close affair, as the Wolfpack showed their best against the Broncos, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who passed for three touchdowns and kept the game close until the fourth quarter.
In the end, the performance of Kaepernick will be measured against that of Bronco quarterback Kellen Moore, and whichever leader is able to triumph what is sure to be a statistical explosion might translate into a victory for his team.
Other Games of Note: LSU at Arkansas, Georgia Tech at Georgia, Michigan at Ohio State, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Houston at Texas Tech, BYU at Utah.