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Must-see games

BCS Championship

Matchup -- Ohio State (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1)

Site -- Glendale, Ariz.

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 8, 8 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Comment -- If anyone can derail Ohio State, it's the Gators (sorry, Michigan fans). Florida went through a brutal SEC nearly unscathed, and QB Chris Leak might be the best passer who gets least-hyped in the game. The Gators should be able to move the ball on the Buckeyes with their spread offense, but it's the Florida defense that could force the upset Michigan could not manage. Then again, Ohio State is the most balanced team in the country, and when was the last time QB Troy Smith did not make a big play when it was needed?


Matchup -- USC (10-2) vs. Michigan (11-1)

Site -- Pasadena, Calif.

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 1, 5 p.m., chs. 2, 7

Comment -- It hardly warms the hearts of the Wolverines to know that they could become AP national champions with a win or that this shapes up as possibly the best BCS game to watch. Enjoy it anyway. For starters, will Michigan and that high-pressure defense get to QB John David Booty or disrupt the timing of those superb Trojans receivers, led by Dwayne Jarrett? The X-factor is an underrated USC defense that figures to neutralize RB Mike Hart and force QB Chad Henne to make the plays that win the game for Michigan. First team to 20 wins?


Matchup -- LSU (10-2) vs. Notre Dame (10-2)

Site -- New Orleans

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 3, 8 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Comment -- Look for Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn to be the first passer selected in the NFL draft. But that will not translate on this night into any magic for the Irish, even though Quinn, with fellow NFL prospects such as RB Darius Walker and WRs Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight, will put up some points. But Notre Dame's defense has been suspect all year, and LSU will send the Irish to their ninth straight bowl loss behind QB JaMarcus Russell and a squad probably as hot and talented as either playing Jan. 8. The Tigers have more speed overall, and their defensive line, anchored by Glenn Dorsey, could dominate.


Matchup -- Penn State (8-4) vs. Tennessee (9-3)

Site -- Tampa, Fla.

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 1, 11 a.m., ESPN

Comment -- This one is attractive because it pits two programs and two coaches who have recovered from recent wounds, some in the literal sense. Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer became one of the more unpopular people in Knoxville after the Volunteers flopped last year. Penn State's Joe Paterno has guided the Nittany Lions to two straight strong years after an extended slip. And Paterno is coming back from a broken leg suffered on the sideline last month. Maybe if Penn State can help its defense by actually scoring, Paterno can really enjoy his return.


Matchup -- Boise State (12-0) vs. Oklahoma (11-2)

Site -- Glendale, Ariz.

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Comment -- You have to admire Oklahoma for its tenacity. The Sooners lost QB Rhett Bomar before the season in that "employment" scandal, then lost superstar RB Adrian Peterson to a broken collarbone and still won the Big 12. Almost everyone outside Norman will be rooting for the Broncos, who are in their first BCS game under first-year coach Chris Petersen.


Matchup -- Wake Forest (11-2) vs. Louisville (11-1)

Site -- Miami

Date, time, TV -- Jan. 2, 8 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Comment -- Just by getting here and earning that $17 million payout for the ACC to share, Wake Forest already has hit the lottery. Coach Jim Grobe did it despite losing QB Ben Mauk, RB Micah Andrews and OT Steve Vallos to injuries. The Demon Deacons thrive on winning the turnover battle - they tied for the national lead with 22 interceptions.

Worth a look

Meineke Car Care

Matchup -- Navy (9-3) vs. Boston College (9-3)

Site -- Charlotte, N.C.

Date, time, TV -- Dec. 30, 1 p.m., ESPN

Comment -- Navy is the irresistible force with its triple-option attack, and the Eagles are the immovable objects with great size and athleticism and pedigree. Even without departed coach Tom O'Brien, the Eagles are in good shape to win their NCAA-record seventh straight bowl game. First-team All-ACC QB Matt Ryan leads an offense equally comfortable with finesse or power. Navy's best bet is winning the time of possession and turnover battles, and QB Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada must shake off his shaky day against Army.

Champs Sports

Matchup -- Maryland (8-4) vs. Purdue (8-5)

Site -- Orlando, Fla.

Date, time, TV -- Dec. 29, 8 p.m., ESPN

Comment -- No wonder the oddsmakers rate this game as even. Neither team is strong or well-rounded enough to look the part of a favorite. Maryland could barely do a thing offensively while losing its past two games, as QB Sam Hollenbach hurt the Terps with turnovers. And neither team's defense has shown it can stop the run with any consistency. Purdue QB Curtis Painter threw for 3,721 yards and 21 TDs, but also 18 INTs. Expect a close one, which favors Maryland, a team that has shown lots of poise.

MPC Computers

Matchup -- Nevada (8-4) vs. Miami (6-6)

Site -- Boise, Idaho

Date, time, TV -- Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

Comment -- Nevada has the 22nd-best running attack in the country, and it doesn't have to travel as far, but all the attention will be on Miami and how far it has fallen. Larry Coker will coach his last game after an embarrassing and tragic regular season. Did you ever think you would see the Hurricanes playing in a bowl game before New Year's Day in a place called Boise?


Matchup -- Kansas State (7-5) vs. Rutgers (10-2)

Site -- Houston

Date, time, TV -- Dec. 28, 8 p.m., NFL Network

Comment -- Congratulations to Kansas State for righting itself enough to become bowl-eligible, but Rutgers is the reason to watch after the Scarlet Knights fashioned one of the feel-good stories in college football in 2006. The Rutgers defense that flattened Louisville in that unforgettable upset will be all over Kansas State, and hopefully senior FB Brian Leonard gets to touch the ball enough to affect the game. The Scarlet Knights look like BCS contenders in the near future.


Matchup -- Arizona State (7-5) vs. Hawaii (10-3)

Site -- Honolulu

Date, time, TV -- Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN

Comment -- Arizona State hopes to hand coach Dirk Koetter a victory in his final game there, but Hawaii brings the dominant attraction to the screen. How can you not be compelled a little to watch an offense that averages 560 yards, including 442.3 yards passing per game? That's what coach June Jones has created on the island, where QB Colt Brennan spreads the ball around and makes big plays relentlessly. He has thrown for 4,990 yards and 53 TDs.

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