MAC battle opens Thanksgiving week college football slate

BRISTOL, Connecticut - Thanksgiving week football gets an early start as Toledo and No. 24 Bowling Green meet in a key Mid-American Conference matchup Tuesday. Toledo hopes to defeat Bowling Green and claim a berth in the MAC title game when it hosts its local rival in the battle for the "Peace Pipe". The Rockets (7-3, 6-1 MAC West) and the Falcons (8-2, 6-1 West) are tied for second place in the division, one-half game behind Northern Illinois, which concluded its regular season with a 34-16 win at Western Michigan on Saturday. Toledo beat Northern Illinois on November 9, 31-17, meaning the Rockets would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Huskies with a victory here. A win by Bowling Green over Toledo would put Northern Illinois in the league title game because the Falcons lost to the Huskies on September 24, 34-17. The West winner will face Miami of Ohio in the league championship game. Only the championship game winner is guaranteed a berth in the Motor City or GMAC Bowl. On Thursday, No. 21 West Virginia and Pittsburgh meet in 97th edition of the "Backyard Brawl" series. The Moutaineers (8-2, 4-1 Big East) have won the last two meetings and are coming off a crucial 36-17 loss to Boston College on November 13. West Virginia needs a win over the Panthers (6-3, 3-2) and a loss by Boston College to Syracuse on Saturday to win the conference title and a BCS bowl bid. Fifth-ranked Texas (9-1) looks to go 7-1 in Big 12 Conference play for the fourth time in the last five seasons when it hosts No. 22 Texas A&M on Friday. The Longhorns will also have one last shot to impress poll voters as they look to leap over California in the BCS standings. Cal is ranked fourth and Texas fifth in the latest BCS poll with only one at-large spot likely available. Top-ranked Southern California (10-0) returns to action Saturday when it hosts Notre Dame. No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 3 Auburn are idle and waiting to play the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference Championship games, respectively, on December 4. The Trojans lead the latest BCS standings with the Sooners and Tigers second and third, respectively. USC will look to extend its home winning streak to 21 and maintain the top spot in the BCS as well as both human polls with its third consecutive win over the Irish. In other games involving highly ranked teams, No. 7 Georgia (8-2) hosts in-state rival Georgia Tech, eighth-ranked Louisville (8-1) travels to Cincinnati and No. 10 Boise State (10-0) looks to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 22 games when it takes on Nevada.