Friday Storylines: Your refuge from the mall
Treat yourself this Friday: Leave those fanatical punchy PlayStation hunters to their shivering tents, have a lie-in, do your early holiday shopping online, and hop up refreshed for ... Louisville vs. South Florida at 11:00! (All right, maybe sleep until noon instead.)
• No. 3 Arkansas @ No. 1 LSU, 2:30 p.m. ET: Not much left to dissect about this one, is there? It's the SEC Championship game for the winner, along with a pretty good shot at the national title game thanks to the state of this year's SEC East, and a lesser bowl with a bitter aftertaste for the loser. Arkansas does have a recent history of dialing it up against LSU, but this year's Bayou Bengals have displayed a remarkable resistance to the two losses that dinged the luster of Miles' most successful Tigers squads. The quality of the Razorbacks' many victories, as a set, may be somewhat dubious; they edged past a Texas A&M team that's shot itself in the foot repeatedly this season and waylaid South Carolina, but were flattened by Alabama, their strongest competition and a team much like LSU in composition. Stay tuned Friday evening to SI.com proper for more game coverage from Andy Staples, who'll be on the scene in Baton Rouge.
• No. 8 Houston @ Tulsa, 12:00 p.m.: The Cougars' last remaining hurdle to an undefeated regular season -- and presumptive BCS at-large bowl bid -- is also their most looming. The Golden Hurricane are no great shakes on defense, but field a top-20 scoring offense under G.J. Kinne that could quite conceivably keep pace with Case Keenum and friends. That said, currents favor the Cougars: UH's defense is actually trending up, and while Tulsa's faced some valiant passing attacks in 2011, they haven't fared well against any of them. Make this one appointment viewing for a Keenum-Kinne duel the likes of which we're not likely to see again soon.
Intrigue in the undercards
• Iowa @ No. 22 Nebraska, 12:00 p.m.: Still think they should've gone with the pitchfork here. He Who Walks Behind The Rows won't be pleased.
• Pittsburgh @ West Virginia, 7:00 p.m.: Lots of threads to track here that have nothing to do with the success of Geno Smith's aerial stylings or the Panthers' increased reliance on Tino Sunseri since the loss of Ray Graham. What will become of the rivalry once both teams depart the Big East? And a big one for the gossip folks: Will the years-old feud between Dana Holgorsen and Todd Graham be a visible factor?
• Eastern Michigan @ Northern Illinois, 11:00 a.m. and Toledo @ Ball State, 2:00 p.m.: The top two teams in the MAC West face the two teams occupying the slots directly beneath their own, and while the Huskies and Rockets have to be considered the class of the conference, the Eagles and Cardinals have both pulled off surprising wins this season.
• Colorado @ Utah, 3:30 p.m. and California @ Arizona, 10:15 p.m.: Here's your 2011-is-crackers reminder that the Utes, with four conference losses, could take the Pac-12 South title in place of an ineligible USC team. What needs to happen for that delightful bit of chaos to hatch: A Utah win over the Buffs, a UCLA loss to the Trojans, and an Arizona State loss to Cal. The Sun Devils besting the Bears would collapse that card fort and pit ASU against the North champ. • UTEP @ Central Florida, 7:00 p.m.: The Miners need a win to break even, and this date with the under-achieving Knights is their last chance. It's not a good chance, but it is UTEP. They've done stranger things. Particularly after dark.