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November 25, 2009

Viewers guide: Pre-weekend feast on tap

This time of season, seconds always are a good idea.

That's why Rivals.com is splitting up our preview of the top games of the week into separate stories. Though there's only one game this week between BCS top-25 teams (check back Friday to see which game earns that honor), the week is full of rivalry games that could shake up the bowl picture.

Remember when 4-7 Pittsburgh upset second-ranked West Virginia in 2007? Perhaps there's potential for that sort of a shocking upset this week - maybe even in Morgantown, this time with the roles somewhat reversed.

All times Eastern.


When: 11 a.m., ESPNU.
Broadcasters: Trey Bender play-by-play, Tom Luginbill analyst.
Line: Temple by 3.
Why you should watch: A year after Buffalo won the MAC title, another former doormat could end up in the conference title game; Temple and Ohio have five bowl appearances and one bowl win between them. Bad news for Temple is that freshman running back Bernard Pierce (1,308 yards, 15 touchdowns) is expected to miss the game with a shoulder injury. He will be replaced by another freshman, Matt Brown, who rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns last week against Kent State. Temple certainly doesn't want to have to throw to win: The Owls have not completed more than six passes in a game since Oct. 24. Ohio wins with defense, ranking 10th in the league and 103rd nationally in total offense. Temple has won nine in a row; Ohio has won six of seven.

Nickname: The Iron Bowl.
When: 2:30 p.m., CBS.
Broadcasters: Craig Bolerjack play-by-play, Steve Beuerlein analyst.
Line: Alabama by 11.5.
Why you should watch: Remember when Auburn beat Alabama six times in a row? Talk about burying the past. That streak - which ended last season, when Alabama won 36-0 - seems like it was ages ago. Alabama has clinched a spot in the SEC championship game and is working on its second consecutive undefeated regular season. Alabama coach Nick Saban says Auburn, led by 1,200-yard back Ben Tate, is the best running team the Tide has faced this season. Alabama has a fine running back of its own in Mark Ingram, who could clinch the Heisman Trophy in the next two weeks.

Nickname: The Backyard Brawl.
When: 7 p.m., ESPN2.
Broadcasters: Mark Jones play-by-play, Bob Davie analyst.
Line: Pittsburgh by 2.
Why you should watch: Two years have passed since Pitt upset No. 2 West Virginia in the 2007 Backyard Brawl in Morgantown, and Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt still fields questions about the impact of that game on the program. That's with good reason. The Panthers are 18-5 overall and 10-2 in the Big East since then. West Virginia - and former coach Rich Rodriguez, for that matter - haven't been the same since. The Mountaineers are 17-7 overall and 8-4 in the conference since that loss. The Panthers still can win the Big East and go to a BCS game even if they lose to West Virginia. But a Mountaineers' upset would take some of the intrigue out of the Dec. 5 matchup between undefeated Cincinnati and Pitt, not that fans in Morgantown would care about that.

When: 10:15 p.m., ESPN2.
Broadcasters: Joe Tessitore play-by-play, Rod Gilmore analyst.
Line: Boise State by 12.
Why you should watch: Nevada's rushing attack has been unstoppable since October, averaging 445.6 yards and 5.4 touchdowns in the past eight games - all wins. The Wolf Pack are the first team in NCAA history to have three 1,000-yard rushers (running backs Vai Taua and Luke Lippincott and quarterback Colin Kaepernick) in the same season. Nevada has been the only WAC team to challenge Boise State in the past two seasons. Boise State has won both meetings, but the last time Nevada visited the blue turf, Kaepernick and Lippincott combined for 607 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns in a 69-67 loss in quadruple overtime. Nevada lost its first three games of the season, to Notre Dame (by shutout), Colorado State and Missouri, before catching fire. Nevada has one of the nation's worst pass defenses, which should make Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore happy; Moore has 33 touchdown passes and just three picks.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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