WEEK 12 VIEWERS' GUIDE: I WISH THEY ALL COULD BE CALIFORNIA GAMES

Stephen Dunn

Make fun of the Pac-12 if you must, but they're the only ones giving you anything remotely watchable this weekend.

In the past we've rolled our collective editorial eyes at ESPN's insistence on "branding" every single weekend of the college football season, but you'll notice that their marketing department has gone conspicuously radio-silent heading into Week 12. Perhaps that's because "Sleepwalk Saturday" is really the only moniker that would fit. Across the country, name-brand programs are tuning up for end-of-season rivalry games by feasting on mid-majors and lower-division scrubs that effectively amount to sparring partners. This is the weekend you take your kids to their first football experience at your alma mater, so they can see just enough to know what douchebags you and your fan base are before you take the little bastards home at halftime and settle in for when the real action starts.

And where, pray tell, will that real football action be taking place? The Pac-12, of all places, which presents two of the only three ranked-on-ranked games that will be taking place this weekend. Let's all sing praises to Larry Scott for giving us some actual protein to consume, rather than the empty calories of watching your third-string offense stumble around against an FBS roster that you still think might be composed of extras from "Friday Night Lights." (That said, we're still listing all kickoffs in Eastern Standard Time, not Pacific. I mean, we're not circus freaks.)

THURSDAY NIGHT

What you'll be watching: North Carolina at Virginia (ESPN, 7:30 p.m.)
Why is this game between two ACC not-exactly-luminaries worth watching? Well, here are some facts about the Coastal Division that both these teams call home:

  • Only one team has clinched bowl eligibility. That team is Duke.
  • No team has fewer than three conference losses, which means that technically, Miami, Georgia Tech and Duke are tied for the division lead. (North Carolina would be included in this, but they are ineligible due to NCAA probation.)
  • All five non-UNC teams are still in the running for the division title, but only two, Miami and Duke, control their own destiny. Those two teams play each other in Durham on the last Saturday of the ACC regular season.

There's more here that I can't even fathom delving into, but the point is this: Based on all these facts, we can deduce that Virginia will win this game by a score of J to yellow, and therefore you are compelled to watch.

FRIDAY NIGHT

What you'll be watching: Hawaii at Air Force (ESPN, 9:30 p.m.)
The good news: This is now a conference game. The bad news: It's not much of one. This would've been a fascinating spectacle about, say, five years ago — ground-pounding Air Force triple-option versus wide-open Colt Brennan passing attack — but now it's just a time-filler matching up a 1-8 team with a 5-5 service academy that's just desperately trying to grab a bowl when the music stops. And Norm Chow being the reserved individual he is, not much chance of a postgame cussing-out of Troy Calhoun, either.

What you should be watching instead: Florida International at Florida Atlantic (ESPNU, 8 p.m.)
No, you know what? Go out. Go to a bar you've always wanted to try but never have. Talk to a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex, if that's your thing). This is not the weekend to depend on football for entertainment.

SATURDAY MORNING

What you'll be watching: Iowa at No. 23 Michigan (ESPN, noon)

What you should be watching instead: Arkansas at Mississippi State (SEC Network, 12:21 p.m.)
For reals, other than Arkansas-MSU, here are the SEC games going on at this hour:

  • Western Carolina at No. 4 Alabama
  • Jacksonville State at No. 7 Florida
  • Wofford at No. 12 South Carolina
  • Georgia Southern at No. 5 Georgia
  • Alabama A&M at Auburn (actually, that one could be competitive, PAWWLLL)

Granted, Ole Miss plays LSU at 3:30 in what could be a mildly competitive game, but otherwise, shame on you, SEC. Your slate of noon games this week is the football equivalent of masturbation, and not even satisfying masturbation, but instead the workmanlike, let's-get-this-over-with masturbation you do when you've only got a few minutes to take care of business and nothing for visual assistance but an old copy of Us Weekly with Kim Kardashian on the cover. OK, maybe that was a little too much information, but the point is, anything involving actual ranked teams and/or competitive football is preferable to this nonsense. Even if it's just Mississippi State carpet-bombing Arkansas' secondary or Michigan attempting to break the legs of the last running back on the Iowa roster who still isn't in a wheelchair yet. DO YOUR PART TO STAND UP AGAINST LATE-SEASON SHITTINESS.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

What you'll be watching: No. 21 USC at No. 17 UCLA (Fox, 3 p.m.)

What you should be watching instead: This and Texas Tech-Oklahoma State are the only matchups containing two ranked teams at this hour, so if you're not watching one of those games, you're either a masochist or someone who's determined to witness Duke crawl to the ACC Championship Game this year (Duke at Georgia Tech, ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.), and as I've told you many times, DON'T BE LIKE ME. YOU DON'T EVER WANT TO BE LIKE ME.

Besides, taking Lane Kiffin and Jim Mora Jr., two ex-NFL guys who take "douchebag" to levels even the cast of "Jersey Shore" would find appalling, and putting them in the same stadium is a recipe for the greatest attempted slapfight in college football history. I say "attempted" because the actual confrontation would more than likely go something like this: Psshhh, nice windbreaker, bro. Yo, I ain't your bro, bro. Oh yeah, bro? Yeah, bro! THEN LET'S DO THIS, BRO! [/two coaches dance around each other for three hours without throwing a punch] [/Matt Barkley throws for six TDs without any coaching whatsoever] [/USC wins by 30]

SATURDAY PRIME-TIME

What you'll be watching: No. 14 Stanford at No. 1 Oregon (ABC, 8 p.m.)

What you should be watching instead: Other than two incredibly talented teams duking it out for the inside track to the Pac-12 title, there just ain't a whole lot going on at this hour — unless you're entranced by the prospect of K-State mopping up what's left of the Baylor "defense," Oklahoma trying to avenge the '08 Fiesta Bowl or Derek Dooley attempting to salvage his manhood against mighty Vanderbilt. (Here's a tidbit for you: Vandy is favored this weekend, and while they're averaging fewer than 20 points a game in SEC play this season, the over/under for this game is still 60. Let both those stats sink in for a minute.) Even if you're some philistine who doesn't care for the actual brand of football being played, hang around for the potential mascot tomfoolery that could go down between Puddles and the Stanford Tree, which would probably resemble something along the lines of a Quentin Tarantino film acted out by Muppets.


SATURDAY LATE NIGHT

What you'll be watching: Arizona at Utah (ESPNU, 10 p.m.)

What you should be watching instead: BYU at San Jose State (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m.)
Honestly, either one of these games is a fine choice, because it's actual football-like substance rather than just watching top-ten teams run up the score against I-AA scrubs. So God bless ya, West Coast, for giving us something to get excited about this weekend. We know you could be out there dickpunching the likes of Weber State or Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for three hours, but instead you're providing actual entertainment, and it's about time we East Coast football chauvinists gave you at least a golf clap for that. Especially you, Steve Spurrier, since you'll probably actually be on a golf course before the fourth quarter of the Wofford game has even started.

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