College Football Weekend Decides Championship Challenger

College football games this weekend will decide who plays Ohio State for the national championship in January. USC, Florida and Michigan all have a shot at making the game, while undefeated Boise State is shut out of the big game.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The last weekend of college football's regular season is highlighted by the traditions of the Army-Navy game and a number of other key match-ups. The results of these games will determine who plays for the national title and in other bowl games.

Commentator John Feinstein will be watching the action this weekend. He joins us now, good morning.

JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, John.

YDSTIE: Let's start with the games that will help decide a national champion. We know Ohio State is in the title game, they're ranked number one. But who's the most likely opponent?

FEINSTEIN: Most likely is Southern California, which right now is number two in the BCS polls. They play their traditional rival UCLA on Saturday. And if they win that game and finish 11-1, they will be Ohio State's opponent.

Now, should they stumble, then Florida - if it could beat the Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference Championship game - might move up enough to play in the championship game. Or, it could be in Ohio State-Michigan, rematch if both Florida and Southern Cal lose.

So those are the three possibilities, in order, I would say. Southern Cal, number one if it wins. Florida, number two, if Southern Cal loses. And then Michigan, if both should lose.

YDSTIE: And if it is Southern Cal, that's quite an achievement for a team that lost, not one, but two Heisman Trophy winners after last season.

FEINSTEIN: Exactly right, Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy last year, and Matt Lienart, he's quarterback, won it the year before. And they won the back-to-back national titles in '03 and '04, and then lost that classic game to Texas in the Rose Bowl at the end of last season.

So, this would be the fourth straight year that Pete Caroll's team is in position to win a national championship, and that in itself, tells you that they've built quite a juggernaut out there in Los Angeles.

YDSTIE: Now, as I understand it, that you've been campaigning for a relative unknown, Boise State, to play in the title game.

FEINSTEIN: You bet.

YDSTIE: Now why?

FEINSTEIN: Because I have a belief that in sports, John, you should not be eliminated from playing for a championship if you don't lose. Boise State hasn't lost. Now, they are a Division 1A team, they don't play in one of the major BCS conferences - and people will say who have they beaten?

Well, none of the BCS teams want to play Boise State. You're not going to see Michigan, or Notre Dame, or Southern Cal, or anybody, schedule Boise State -they're going to schedule Walford and Buffalo as their 12th game.

So until someone is willing to step up and play Boise State - if they're undefeated, I believe they should have a chance to play for the championship. Of course, they won't, they'll be in a different Bowl.

YDSTIE: I'll join your campaign.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you. That makes the two of us.

YDSTIE: Okay, let's turn to your favorite game, Army-Navy, how does that match-up look this season?

FEINSTEIN: Well, once again, Navy's a heavy favorite. They've won four years in a row against Army. They're going to their fourth straight bowl game this year. They have dominated the rivalry lately. Army has really struggled. They are three and eight, Navy's is eight and three. And once again, you would have to expect Navy would win that game for a fifth year in a row.

YDSTIE: John, you wrote a book about the Army-Navy rivalry, what is it about this game that's so special?

FEINSTEIN: There is nothing like the end of the Army-Navy game, when after three hours of the players playing as hard as any two teams in the country will play in any game all year - maybe not as well as the teams that play for the National Championship - but as hard and with as much emotion and intensity.

When the players on the two teams stand together for the playing of each other's Alma Maters - and you understand what's going on in the world right now and where these kids may be in a few months, and how they're going to be working together, fighting together, may be dying together - it's like nothing else in sports.

YDSTIE: The comments of John Feinstein who will be at the Army-Navy game this weekend. He's also the author of “A Civil War: Army Versus Navy”. Thanks, John.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, John.

(Soundbite of music)

YDSTIE: This is NPR News.

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