Time for college teams to go bowling

CHAMPIONSHIP weekend.

But that doesn't only mean LSU-Georgia (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS), even if that's obviously the matchup most people will be fixated on. Actually, it's just one of nine games that have postseason implications. And it gets going tonight at 8 (ESPN) when West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) visits South Florida (5-6, 1-5) in the Big East, which doesn't have a title game. Louisville (7-5, 5-2), which started 2-4, has clinched at least a piece of its first title since 2006. WVU can tie with a win. So can Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2), which hosts defending champion Connecticut (5-6, 3-3) Saturday (noon, ESPN).

If there's a three-way tie, the highest-ranked team in Sunday's final BCS standings gets the automatic BCS bowl bid, which likely is a spot in the Orange opposite Virginia Tech. Cincy wins a head-to-head tie with Louisville. A Bearcats' loss makes Louisville the winner, regardless of what WVU does.

Tomorrow (7, ESPN2) the MAC final matches Northern Illinois (9-3) and Ohio (9-3), which beat out Temple in the East. NIU actually tied Toledo but advanced on the strength of its 66-63 win at Toledo on Nov. 1. The Huskies got to this game last year but lost to Miami of Ohio. Ohio got to this game in 2009 and lost to Central Michigan. NIU won its lone ring in 1983. Ohio has won five from 1953-68.

Also tomorrow, Oregon (10-2) hosts UCLA (6-6) in the Pac-12's inaugural finale (Fox, 8). The Ducks lost to LSU and USC, which would have won the South if not for those NCAA issues. Instead UCLA got in despite closing with a 50-0 loss at USC, which dropped its road record to 1-5. If it loses, UCLA will have to petition the NCAA for a waiver to go bowling. Even if it wins, this is the last game of the Rick Neuheisel era. Oregon, which made it to the national-title game in January, should get to the Rose for the second time in three seasons. UCLA has played its home games there for 3 decades but hasn't celebrated New Year's there since 1999.

On Saturday at noon (ABC) Southern Mississippi (10-2) is at Houston (12-0) for the C-USA crown. Houston, of course, has Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum. And the Cougars are playing for a berth in their first BCS bowl, probably in the Sugar, perhaps against Michigan. They last won the title in 2006, by beating SMU at home. Two years ago they lost in the finale at East Carolina. The Golden Eagles - who lost at 6-6 Marshall in early September, won at Virginia 2 weeks later and lost at 3-9 Alabama-Birmingham 2 weeks ago - beat Houston at home last season, 59-41. They lost at Houston in 2009, 53-40. The over-under is 72 1/2.

Next up, at 4 (CBS), is the SEC. In 2008 and '09 this one had No. 1 against No. 2 (Florida and Alabama both times). Now, the conference that's already given us a 1-2 and a 1-3 in the last month comes down to top-ranked LSU (12-0) and No. 12 Georgia (10-2), which has won 10 straight, in Atlanta. LSU just outscored No. 3 Arkansas by 41-3 in the closing 35 minutes. Even if LSU loses, maybe even if it loses by a bunch, it still figures to have a good chance, maybe even a very good chance, of getting into the national title game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans, which is looking like a rematch with Alabama. Georgia lost to LSU in the 2003 final, 34-13. Two years later in that game it beat the Tigers by 20. LSU, which last lifted this trophy in 2007 (against Tennessee), won at Georgia in 2009 after losing to the Dawgs at home in '08.

For the first time since 1996, the Big 12 doesn't have a title game. But the schedule-makers must have known something, because Oklahoma (9-2) at Oklahoma State (10-1) will decide things (ABC, 8). OU has made it to a BCS bowl nine of the last 11 seasons. OSU, which still might have a shot at getting to the title game, hasn't even finished tied for first since 1976 (and that was in the old Southwest). Its last appearance in a major bowl was the 1946 Sugar. The Cowboys haven't won this game since 2002. If OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden has a monster night it might be enough to earn him some late Heisman love. Did we mention that the Sooners somehow lost at home to Texas Tech, which then lost its last five to finish 5-7?

At the same time on ESPN, the ACC will be decided in Charlotte. Virginia Tech (11-1), in the final for the fifth time in 7 years, faces Clemson (9-3). Virginia Tech has won the last three titles, including last December's victory over Florida State (also at Bank of America Stadium). The Hokies, coming off a 38-0 win at Virginia, lost at home to Clemson on Oct. 1 by 20. The Tigers got to this game in 2009, losing to Georgia Tech. They've lost three of their last four, all by at least two touchdowns. Their win in that stretch was by three, at home against 6-6 Wake Forest.

Finally, kicking off some 15 minutes later on Fox, is the inaugural Big Ten finale between Wisconsin (10-2) and Michigan State (10-2) in Indianapolis. The winner proceeds directly to Pasadena, where Wisconsin lost to TCU 11 months ago. This is another rematch. On Oct. 22 MSU avoided overtime at home by scoring on a Hail Mary pass on the final play that was not ruled a touchdown on the field but was overturned by replay. The Badgers were unbeaten at the time. They lost on a similar play at Ohio State a week later. Last week they pounded Penn State. Montee Ball has 34 TDs (29 rushing). The record is 39, by Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders in 11 games in 1988. MSU has been to the Rose once in the last 45 years, after the 1987 season.

The bowl season begins Dec. 17, with the first three of 35. A dozen are Jan. 2 or later, since New Year's falls on a Sunday and thus belongs to the NFL. Enjoy. Once you get past the final appetizer.