THE FINAL MONTH: Gate, Hate and It Gets Late

Finalmonthlogo_medium
Everything up until now has been prelude. If the consensus is correct, the teams above will be the ones with the best shot at taking premier conference championships -- I know there aren't any ACC teams; I said premier -- or a shot at shaking up the teams that would take one of the top prizes.

Five Saturdays, with four weeks between them, deciding everything. The Final Month.

THE FIRST WEEK (11/7-8)
The weekday slate features a decent enough WAC game, when darkhorse contender Nevada goes to Fresno State in a match-up scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The rest of the week is all about the lesser hates of mid-level rivalries. The Bowden Bowl is played this week, also known as the Game that Keeps Tommy Bowden Gainfully employed, otherwise known as Clemson at Florida State.

There's the "Pope Bowl," featuring Notre Dame at Boston College. Believe ABC will pick this up in order to be able to have THE MOSTEST TRADITION-RICH COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROGRAM EVERER on its network.

And what would Midwestern football be without drankin'? Michigan goes to Minnesota to try to reclaim the Little Brown Jug. (See, Michael Adams -- some conference encourage the use of liquor.) Of course, you could pay attention to what the jug was really supposed to carry, but that's no fun.

The highlight of this mini-rivalry week, though, takes place in Baton Rouge, when Nick Saban returns to the Bayou for Alabama at LSU. To say Saban will be the target of some LSU fans' anger would be low-balling it; his assistants have foresworn riding the same bus with the second most job-promiscuous coach in the SEC.

Fun? Crazy LSU fans, Les Miles and Nick Saban all in the same stadium? How could that possibly be fun?

THE SECOND WEEK (11/13-15)
Virginia Tech and Miami reprise their two-conference rivalry once more, this time in south Florida at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on ESPN. The Hurricanes will likely have little more to play for in terms of the ACC standings than trying to deep-six the Hokies' hopes. Which is really more than enough.

Another high-stakes game for the spelling-challenged Dawgs comes Saturday when Georgia at Auburn takes center stage. This is, in C&F's opinion, an SEC Championship Game preview. But can Evil Richt motivate his team without the black jerseys?

The Fighting Redacteds, meanwhile, will try to take down the Lumbering Tressels for the second straight years when Ohio State visits Illinois. And the Jayhawks continue to pay for their easy schedule last year with Texas at Kansas. And for those who like revenge games. I have a feeling you'll be watching Southern Cal at Stanford. No reason.

THE THIRD WEEK (11/22)
More Midwestern rivalries, this time in the form of Michigan at Ohio State. You'll recall that the last time this contest was played in Columbus, it was seen as an elimination game for the NC. Not so much this year, though the Buckeyes could need a win if they're undefeated to clinch a spot in the title tilt.

Also on tap: The de facto Big XII South championship game, as Texas Tech visits Oklahoma. The same could be said for the Mountain West, with BYU at Utah slated as a near-mortal lock to be a game with the conference crown on the line. And West Virginia at Louisville could be an interesting Big East game.

THE FOURTH WEEK (11/27-29)
Texas A&M at Texas kicks things off with an 8 p.m. ET game on ESPN Thanksgiving Thursday. A potential revenge game after the Aggies capped off the Longhorns' late-season collapse last year.

Friday brings West Virginia at Pitt -- don't worry if you can't make the noon ET kickoff time on ABC; it won't be as good as you might think now. Thirty minutes later, Mississippi visits Mississippi State for the Egg Bowl. And at 6 p.m., ESPN2 brings us Fresno State at Boise State, another possible showdown for the WAC title.

Rivalries big and small occupy Saturday: Georgia Tech at Georgia, Florida at Florida State, South Carolina at Clemson, UNC at Duke, Auburn at Alabama and Notre Dame at Southern Cal.

And then there's Kansas at Missouri. Believe it; this game will decide the Big XII North and potentially the Big XII. Which means it could once again slide into the ABC Saturday Night Football slot.

THE FIFTH WEEK (12/6)
This is championship week. There are, of course, the official bouts: the SEC, ACC and Big XII all hold their year-ending events this year. Look for Georgia to beat Auburn, Clemson to beat North Carolina and Missouri to beat Kansas.

South Florida visits West Virginia, as the 'Eers try to snap a two-year losing streak to the Bulls. Navy meets Army and Southern Cal crosses town to play UCLA.

And then we wait to see what the BCS computers spit out.

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