Jerry runs the web sites CollegeRPI.com and CollegeBCS.com and a CSTV.com analyst. E-mail here!
It's the home stretch of the season and with so many teams with either national championship hopes or BCS aspirations, there are several important games to keep tabs on.
Sixteen teams end their regular seasons this weekend, including the entire Big Ten. The annual Big Ten "Championship Game" tops the slate. OhioState and Michigan play in Ann Arbor for a Rose Bowl berth. OhioState still has a slim chance at getting back up to the BCS title game, but this is Michigan's only chance to reach the BCS. If the Buckeyes lose, they have a decent chance of being selected as a BCS at-large team.
Illinois is rooting hard for the Buckeyes also. If OhioState wins and the Illini knock off Northwestern, there is a slight chance that Illinois could end up in a BCS game.
The Illini are also rooting for West Virginia to win at Cincinnati, which is something ranked opponents have found difficult to do thus far. The Bearcats are 3-0 against ranked opposition this season, including wins in their last two games. Cincinnati is still in the Big East race, but needs a little help. The Bearcats have to win out and have someone knock off Connecticut to win the Big East.
Before the Big 12 playoffs begin, all three contenders have warm-up games this week. Kansas should be able to handle IowaState at home, but Missouri and Oklahoma have opponents they better not overlook. Mizzou travels to KansasState to face the desperate, but fading, Wildcats on their Senior Day. KSU has lost two straight in embarrassing fashion, but can still get to a bowl with one more win, so the Tigers will get their best effort.
Oklahoma is off to Texas Tech to face the juggernaut Red Raider offense. Many people feel the Sooners are the team to beat in the Big 12, but if they are going to have a shot at the national championship, they need to put up big numbers and find a way to keep Texas Tech from doing the same.
BCS honchos took margin of victory away from the computers after the 2001 season because Oregon suffered because of it. That severely minimized the impact of MOV in the formula. Then, after No. 1 USC was left out in 2003, the formula was changed again to give the polls more weight, and not just the rankings in the polls, but the point totals. One of the things that really influences voters, especially late in the season in a close race, is margin of victory.
That's why LSU needs to not just beat Mississippi, but lay the wood to them. With Oregon on their heels and Oklahoma looking to make a move, it is in the best interest of the Tigers to not give the voters a reason to doubt them. If the Rebels can pull the unlikely upset, they might save coach Ed Orgeron's job. Duck fans might even start calling him Ed Oregon.
Of course, Oregon has its own problems. The Ducks get the week started by waddling to Arizona to play the Wildcats on Thursday night. Obviously, style points are important for Oregon, but these Thursday night games have been rough on highly rated teams. West Virginia and Boston College got pretty good scares the last two weeks, while South Florida suffered its first loss three Thursdays ago, so Oregon might do well just to survive.
Friday, Hawai'i plays at Nevada in a game many have earmarked as a potential upset for the Warriors. There might be good reason for that. As good as Hawai'i is at home, they have been bad on the road. The two highest-rated teams the Warriors have faced on the road, Louisiana Tech and San JoseState, took them to overtime. Nevada appears to be better than either of those and Warrior QB Colt Brennan is coming off a concussion suffered in last week's game, but he is expected to play.