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November 28, 2013

Week 14 Preview

The stakes are bigger than a rivalry when UCF resumes the "War on I-4" with South Florida on Friday night. The game will be nationally-televised by ESPN at 8 p.m.

Sure, the No. 17 Knights (9-1, 6-0) would love to end the four-game series losing streak to the Bulls (2-8, 2-4), but more importantly they can take another big step towards their goal of the American Athletic Conference championship and BCS bid.

A win would clinch at least a share of the league title, then all eyes would shift to next Thursday's Louisville at Cincinnati game - aka the "Keg of Nails." The Bearcats (9-2, 6-1) are still in the hunt for the title and BCS bid, but need to win that one and for UCF to drop a game.

The Knights, if they beat USF, could clinch the BCS berth with a Louisville win over Cincinnati.

But all that could fall by the wayside if UCF slips up to USF.

Elsewhere in the league, SMU travels to Houston Friday at 12 noon in search of their sixth-win needed for bowl eligibility. The Mustangs host UCF on Dec. 7. Saturday's slate includes Rutgers at UConn and Temple at Memphis.

Here's a look at every game involving the American, future league members East Carolina, Tulane, Tulsa and Navy, plus UCF's non-conference opponents (Akron, FIU, Penn State, South Carolina).

Yahoo! College Football Scoreboard

Lines are for entertainment purposes only, picks are head-to-head.

SMU (5-5, 4-2 AAC) at Houston (7-4, 4-3 AAC)
12 noon, ESPN2
THE BUZZ: Big game for SMU, who must win one more game to attain the sixth win needed for bowl eligibility. If they don't get it against Houston, they'd have to beat conference-leader UCF next week. The Mustangs will be at a disadvantage without their starting quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who sprained his knee in last week's 16-6 win at USF. Houston won seven of their first eight games, but have dropped three straight conference games (UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati).
THE LINE: Houston by 9.5
THE PICK: Houston
East Carolina (9-2, 6-1 C-USA) at Marshall (8-3, 6-1 C-USA)
12 noon, CBS Sports Network
THE BUZZ: It's pretty simple - the winner takes the Conference USA East Division crown and will play in next week's league championship game. ECU blasted another-instate ACC foe last weekend, beating NC State 42-28. They beat UNC 55-31 earlier in the season. It's a battle among top QBs as well: ECU's Shane Carden and Marshall's Rakeem Cato are both tied for third among all FBS players with 32 touchdown passes.
THE LINE: Marshall by 3.5
THE PICK: East Carolina
Toledo (7-4, 5-2 MAC) at Akron (4-7, 3-4 MAC)
12 noon, ESPN3
THE BUZZ: Akron may not beat Toledo, but it was a year of improvement for second-year coach Terry Bowden, who recently was awarded a two-year contract extension. The Zips had only won one game in each of the previous two seasons. A highlight was retaking the "Wagon Wheel" from nearby rival Kent State with a 16-7 win on Nov. 2.
THE LINE: Toledo by 7.5
THE PICK: Toledo
FIU (1-10, 1-6 C-USA) at FAU (5-6, 3-4 C-USA)
3 p.m., FOX Sports 1
THE BUZZ: This Thanksgiving weekend, FIU is thankful they had Southern Miss on the schedule otherwise they wouldn't have won a game all year. The Panthers have been dreadful and things likely won't get any better finishing their season at nearby rival FAU. The Owls have won three straight (Tulane, Southern Miss, New Mexico State) since canning head coach Carl Pelini for drug use.
THE LINE: FAU by 27.5
USF (2-8, 2-4 AAC) at No. 17 UCF (9-1, 6-0 AAC)
8 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: The "War on I-4" returns after a four-year hiatus. USF holds a 4-0 advantage in games played from 2005-08, something UCF coach George O'Leary has reminded the team all week. On paper, UCF, the current leaders atop the American, should have no problems with this struggling USF team, but the Bulls do have a decent defense and with no postseason in the cards, this is their bowl game.
Rutgers (5-5, 2-4 AAC) at UConn (1-9, 1-5 AAC)
12 noon, ESPNU
THE BUZZ: 33rd meeting all time with Rutgers holding a 22-10 series advantage. Which Scarlet Knights team will show up though? Rutgers, who began the year 4-1, have lost four of their past five games, including last week's 41-17 loss to UCF. In an effort to spark the offense, coach Kyle Flood has benched quarterback Gary Nova and will go with Chas Dodd instead. UConn, who looked about as bad as a team could be during their nine-game losing streak to start the season, got a somewhat surprising win at Temple last Saturday, a team that almost had beaten UCF the week before. The Owls raced out to a 21-0 lead at halftime, but the Huskies scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half to win, 28-21.
THE LINE: Rutgers by 2.5
THE PICK: Rutgers
Temple (1-10, 0-7 AAC) at Memphis (3-7, 1-5 AAC)
12 noon, ESPNews
THE BUZZ: First all-time meeting. Temple, who was one play short of upsetting UCF a week earlier, managed to blow a 21-0 halftime lead to winless UConn, another devastating late-game result for first-year coach Matt Rhule. Memphis played a very good game at Louisville last week, a 24-17 loss, but would've had the ball late for a potential game-tying drive if not for a roughing the punter call.
THE LINE: Memphis by 8.5
THE PICK: Memphis
North Texas (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) at Tulsa (3-8, 2-5 C-USA)
2:30 p.m., No TV
THE BUZZ: The final game of a disappointing season for Tulsa, the 2012 Conference USA Champions. The Golden Hurricane, despite a few personnel losses, were expected to compete again in the West Division, but fell flat. They did get a win last week though at Louisiana Tech.
THE LINE: North Texas by 4.5
THE PICK: North Texas
Tulane (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) at Rice (8-3, 6-1 C-USA)
3 p.m., No TV
THE BUZZ: Huge game on the west side of C-USA as both teams (plus a third) are vying to represent the division in next week's title game. For Rice, it's simple. Beat Tulane and they win the West. Tulane needs to not only beat Rice, but have UTSA fall to Louisiana Tech. Meanwhile, Larry Coker's UTSA Roadrunners would win the West if they beat La Tech along with a Tulane win.
THE LINE: Rice by 11
Penn State (6-5, 3-4 B1G) at No. 14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1 B1G)
3:30 p.m., ESPN
THE BUZZ: For Penn State to have a winning season, they must win their finale at No. 14 Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions had opportunities in last week's game against Nebraska, but ultimately fell 23-20 in overtime. PSU kicker Sam Ficken missed a crucial PAT during regulation and then a 37-yard field goal in the opening possession of overtime. In the second year of a four-year bowl ban, the next game for Penn State after this one will be next August 30 in Ireland against UCF.
THE LINE: Wisconsin by 24.5
THE PICK: Wisconsin
No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC)
7 p.m., ESPN2
THE BUZZ: It's the first time in 111 meetings that both schools have met with each ranked in the top 10. South Carolina owns a four-game win streak in the rivalry, but have never won five in a row. The Gamecocks are still in contention for the SEC East, but need Missouri to lose to Texas A&M. Clemson is aiming to appear in a BCS game, likely the Orange Bowl, provided Florida State represents the league in the national championship game.
THE LINE: South Carolina by 4.5
THE PICK: South Carolina

Bye dates: Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1 AAC), Louisville (10-1, 6-1), Navy (7-4)



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