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What We're Watching - Rivalry Week

Here's hoping all of our readers had a great Thanksgiving holiday spending time with family and reflecting on everything they are thankful for in their lives. Here's something I am thankful for - a full slate of great college football rivalry games because, holy cow, we've got some good ones tomorrow. Let's get right to it.

Michigan at Ohio State (12 p.m. ET, ABC): Brady Hoke snapped the Maize and Blue's six-game losing streak to Ohio State last season, and now he faces off with Urban Meyer for the first time. Both coaches have brought a renewed intensity to this storied rivalry. Could we be on the cusp on another Ten Year War? That's probably premature, but Chapter 1 starts tomorrow. Michigan has historically struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks and, if that's the case tomorrow, Braxton Miller could put Greg Mattison's defense in for a long day. On the other sideline, Devin Gardner makes his first start against Ohio State, hoping to build off last week's six touchdown performance versus Iowa. 

Georgia Tech at Georgia (12 p.m. ET, ESPN): Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate enters its 107th installment with both teams already claiming their respective division championship. This is a series Georgia has dominated historically, Georgia Tech has just a dozen wins since 1964, and recently, as the Bulldogs have won 10 of the last 11 meetings. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray enters his final home game playing the best football of his career. The Tampa native has connected on 57-of-80 passes (71 percent) for 922 yards (11.5 ypa) for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last three outings. Paul Johnson's offense rolls into Athens equally hot, rambling for 1,080 yards and 15 touchdowns on 195 carries (5.54 ypc) through its three-game winning streak.

Oregon at Oregon State (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network): Chip Kelly's needs to win and then root for UCLA to keep its Pac-12 and national championship hopes alive. The Ducks have won in their last two trips to Reser Stadium and look to keep that streak alive after seeing its school-record 13-game winning streak snapped on Saturday. Mike Riley's team can be described as Stanford-lite, even down to its upset loss at Washington. The Beavers trail just Stanford in Pac-12 rushing defense statistics, but Oregon State does not make the same volume of plays behind the line of scrimmage as Stanford. 

Florida at Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): Florida State won last year's meeting at The Swamp 21-7 in a game that set offensive football back 100 years - the teams combined for 279 yards, 18 first downs and 4-of-30 on third down. Again: combined. This year's game won't be quite that sluggish, but neither defense will give its counterpart room to breathe. Each of these units rank in the country's top six in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and passing efficiency defense. And, if you didn't already now, both defensive coordinators are nominated for the FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year award. The biggest gap between the squads comes at quarterback. Seminoles quarterback E.J. Manuel, who ranks seventh nationally with 21 TDs and 6 INTs, squares off against Jeff Driskel, who leads the country's 63rd most efficient passing offense.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): From 2000-02, Oklahoma State lost to Oklahoma 12-7, won 16-13 and won 38-28. Following a 47-41 loss in 2010 and a 44-10 drubbing in 2011, a win Saturday matches that streak for the Cowboys, but Mike Gundy has his program in a much different place than a decade ago, when OSU was a heavy underdog in each game. This time around, the Cowboys are working on a 30-6 record and looking for a share of their third straight conference title. Oklahoma is 30-7 since 2010 and also in the hunt for its second Big 12 title in three years. That's why The Oklahoman writer Berry Tramel says Bedlam is better than it's ever been

Stanford at UCLA (6:30 p.m. ET, FOX): The challenge for David Shaw and Jim L. Mora this week was pulling their respective players heads out of the clouds after their potentially program-changing wins last week. The Bruins have already clinched the Pac-12 South, while Stanford can win the Pac-12 North, and thus a rematch with UCLA, by winning on Saturday. UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, the nation's fifth-leading rusher, enters Saturday on a run of 160-plus yard performances in three of his last four games. He will need to keep that streak alive against a Stanford defense that allows just north of 70 rushing yards and 2.37 yards per carry. Shaw's insertion of Kevin Hogan into the starting quarterback spot has paid dividends, as the freshman has completed nearly 75 percent of his passes and accounted for eight touchdowns against three interceptions. 

South Carolina at Clemson (7 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mandrallius Robinson and Willie T. Smith of the Greenville News this week had a worthwhile piece about how Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney have taken the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry to heights previously unseen by de-emphasizing the rivalry within their respective programs. The Gamecocks have owned the last three meetings, winning by a combined score of 97-37. Chad Morris' offense has put together a fantastic season under the radar, ranking in FBS's top 10 of four offensive categories and riding a streak of 10 straight games with at least 37 points, but he has to solve a Gamecocks defense that has stuffed Clemson for three straight years. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has gone just 21-of-47 for 156 yards (3.31 ypa) with one touchdown and one interception in his career against South Carolina, and the Tigers have run for just 179 yards 76 carries (2.36 ypc) during the three-game skid.  

Notre Dame at USC (8 p.m. ET, ABC): He would never admit it, but no team will play with more pressure on its shoulders than Brian Kelly's Notre Dame squad Saturday night in Los Angeles. Kelly's team is 60 minutes away from taking a nation of Fighting Irish fans back to the promised land after wandering in the desert for two solid decades. Notre Dame has by far played its best football away from South Bend, winning its five games by an average of 25 points while owning an 8-3 turnover advantage. Redshirt freshman Max Wittek makes his first career start for the Trojans, and he will no doubt target all-purpose maven Marqise Lee early and often. Notre Dame will play its first game as a BCS No. 1 one week after another program lost its BCS No. 1 debut by committing three turnovers in a road upset. In an unprecedented role reversal, an unranked team that was ranked No. 1 in preseason will host the No. 1-ranked team that was unranked in preseason.

Golden: "I worry about everything"

Last week, the University of Miami announced a self imposed bowl ban that will keep Miami from playing in the post season for the second straight year.

Asked if the bowl ban and ongoing NCAA investigation is something that he is worried about, head coach Al Golden responded by saying "I worry about everything."

Golden notes that sentiment goes beyond just his players...it includes everyone that touches the program, and each individual that has invested their time and energy into accomplishing their team goals.

"I worry about all the kids that sit in a room and the staff, our strength staff, our training staff, everybody. When we go on that field, there are usually 240 people on that field. So there are a lot of people involved, a lot of lives involved. But I can see what we're becoming and what we want to do with the program." Golden explained.

"That vision pulls me a little bit stronger than some of these things that try and tear us apart. I think we're here for the right reasons, which is why you have a tendency to dig in and fight as opposed to flight."

Golden notes in an Associated Press article that how they respond to the ban and investigation this weekend against a much improved Duke squad will likely define this team.

"We can complain all we want but we can't change it. But the challenge for our team is we're going to be defined by how we respond to this. And the first test of that is Saturday against Duke. We can say whatever we want. We can say we have a great attitude, we're working hard, we're focused, but the test is Saturday at 12:30."

If Miami can get to the 30 point mark tomorrow, watch out. In all six of their wins this season, Miami has scored at least 30 points, and are 16-2 when scoring 30 or more in their past 18 games. Also, the Hurricanes have converted their last 18 consecutive red zone trips into points (13 of them being touchdowns).

One thing is for sure, Golden has a young team that has played pretty well. Their starting offense and defense have a combined 11 starters that are either freshman or sophomores (redshirts included). The success of the young players has shown that Golden and his staff have been able to recruit very well regardless of the NCAA cloud that has been hanging over the program.

The U still has a lot to sell. They've got a beautiful campus in a great location, a football program that should return to prominence sooner rather than later, a recruiting pipeline that coaches from every state wish that they had direct access to, and a coaching staff that are committed to the university and care tremendously about the individuals that they bring into the program. With that formula already in place, it's only a matter of time before the program is competing at the level that Golden and his staff expect.

 

Leach to radio host: "If your opinion mattered, you'd be invited to staff meetings"

Mike Leach joined ESPN 710AM in Seattle on Wednesday, and wasn't a fan of the questions that were being lobbed his direction.

The question that set the following events in motion came after the hosts of the Kevin Calabro show asked Leach if he felt that his players were "unified in their effort and support" of him and if they'd be "willing to run through a wall for him" after a disappointing season thus far.

"I don't know if that is really the entire thing," Leach responded. "I think that you continue to teach and improve and stuff like that. From the beginning here I think you've had an agenda, but what I would say is that in this business, that we're not unified just because you've tried to make a mountain out of a mole hill about everything that has gone on over here and just haven't accepted the dynamic of change certainly doesn't mean that we haven't had players that are playing extremely hard and overachieving."

"In that stack of articles that you have sitting there, I'm sure that you can probably find a dozen other teams that are playing with 15 freshman, and then I'd also like to know how those guys are doing. Now those guys are running through the wall, and the fact that you happen to be dissatisfied doesn't mean a great deal to me or this team here."

The host, obviously not happy with the 2-9 record the Cougs had put together, then tried to explain that he didn't have an agenda, and was just trying to state his opinion on the state of the program.

"If your opinion really mattered to me, you'd probably be invited to some of the staff meetings around here, and unless that invitation has been lost in the mail, I don't guess you were." Leach explained.

Then Leach mentions siccing an owl on a the hosts dog. Only Leach can somehow fit that kind of nugget into a (somewhat) heated radio conversation.

Skip to the 9:50 mark of the clip to catch the good stuff.

More audio at MyNorthwest.com

 

Friday TV - Ten post turkey day games

The weekend gets off to an early start with ten college football games on tonight, including multiple in-state rivalry games..

Eastern time listed.

NFL:

No games

College:

Ohio at Kent State - 11am - ESPNU

Syracuse at Temple - 11am - ESPN2

Nebraska at Iowa - 12 - ABC

Marshall at East Carolina - 2 - CBSSN

LSU at Arkansas - 2:30 - CBS

Utah at Colorado - 3 - FX

Washington at Washington State - 3:30 - FOX

West Virginia at Iowa State - 3:30 - ABC

South Florida at Cincinnati - 7 - ESPN

Arizona State at Arizona - 10 - ESPN

High School:

No games

The Scoop on TCU vs. Texas

Out with the old and in with the new as Texas continues its Thanksgiving night tradition, but this year's opponent is Gary Patterson's young but dangerous TCU team.

Texas enters tonight riding a four-game winning streak and appears to have found itself over its past two outings - a 31-22 win at Texas Tech and a 33-7 victory over Iowa State. After allowing 1,065 rushing yards on 177 carries (6.02 ypc) over its first four Big 12 games, the Texas defense has surrendered just 201 rushing yards on its last 88 attempts (2.3 ypc) dating back to the second quarter of the Kansas game. Texas will need those numbers to continue tonight against a TCU offense that runs for a Big 12-worst 3.86 yards per carry. 

The Texas offense has been hitting on all cylinders of late, keyed by the emergence of Mike Davis as a deep threat. Davis caught seven passes for 113 yards and a 61-yard touchdown versus Iowa State, nabbed four passes for 165 yards and two scores, including a 75-yarder against Texas Tech, and caught a key 39-yard pass in the game-winning drive versus Kansas.

The deep post has been the weapon of choice between Davis and quarterback David Ash. Davis averages 18.6 yards per catch for the year, ahead of the likes of Baylor's Terrance Williams, USC's Marqise Lee and West Virginia's Tavon Austin. Davis' emergence has given the rest of the offense room to breathe, as Texas gained 609 yards against Iowa State and, outside of end of half time killers, only had one drive march less than 47 yards. 

TCU is still looking for a signature win in Year 1 of the Big 12, but beating the in-state behemoth in their house on national TV would definitely be something for Gary Patterson to hang his hat on to recruits across the state of Texas. 

The two players that make up the face of Patterson's young Horned Frogs team are redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin and true freshman defensive end Devonte Fields. Boykin has thrown for 1,540 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions while adding 267 rushing yards and two scores in six starts after stepping in for opening day starter Casey Pachall. Fields has drawn Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year consideration as his 10 sacks share the league lead with Texas senior Alex Okafor, and his 20 TFL lead the Big 12 and place him among college football's top dozen playmakers behind the line of scrimmage. 

Davis will need a big game tonight to open things underneath for Texas to run against the Big 12's best rush defense (98.4 ypg, 3.12 ypc). Meanwhile, Fields will face an offensive line averse to allowing plays behind the line of scrimmage. Texas has allowed the fifth-fewest sacks and the second-fewest TFL in college football. 

Whichever player can turn his opponent's strength into a weakness will lead his team to victory. 

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