Finally, it's the big one

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

At first glance, Shakeup Saturday appeared to unleash chaos across the college football landscape.

But take a closer look and you'll discover that, with Texas, Louisville, California and Auburn now out of the national championship chase, the picture has actually started to clear in a major way.

For now, anyways.

Simply put, it comes down to one big game each of the next three weeks. And once the results of Ohio State-Michigan, USC-Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference's title game (Florida-Arkansas, most likely) are in the books, we should have a BCS championship matchup in place.

Granted, only one half of that Jan. 8 tilt in Glendale, Ariz., is a sure thing: The winner between Ohio State and Michigan, both unbeaten and ranked No. 1 and No. 2, puts a lock on a spot.

A great debate, however, is sure to ensue if any two of the other four get to the finish line with a 12-1 record. But there are also plausible scenarios out there which could see USC, Notre Dame and the SEC duo all wind up with two losses.

Then it could be say hello to the winner between West Virginia and unbeaten Rutgers on Dec. 2.

All of that, though, is for another day. The focus this week -- as it should be -- is on the much-anticipated collision in Columbus this Saturday. For the first time, the Buckeyes and Wolverines lock horns as No. 1 and No. 2. They arrive at their season-ending collision both unbeaten for the first time since 1973.

Ohio State leads the nation in scoring defence. Michigan's fierce stop troops are No. 1 against the run. Both can pile up the points on offence.

They've clearly separated themselves from the pack, in the BCS standings and in the minds of many pundits. So much so that some already suggest a close result Saturday might open the door for the possibility of a rematch for the national title.

Another source of debate in the days and weeks to come, no doubt.

The picks for Week 12 (odds supplied by Sportsbook.com):

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 2 Michigan (+7) at No. 1 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m, ABC) -- The Wolverines bring the nation's No. 2 defence against the run into this game, meaning the game's outcome likely rests on the arm -- and feet -- of Buckeyes QB Troy Smith. He's come up huge vs. Michigan the last two years and, with another stellar performance here, puts a lock on the Heisman Trophy. Can Michigan QB Chad Henne and RB Michael Hart keep up the pace against a swift defence that only allows a nation-leading 7.5 points per game? Fascinating stuff, all of it. In the end, we say Jim Tressel continues his mastery over the Maize and Blue, but take the points because it'll be a nail biter. PICK: MICHIGAN.

NEXT BEST THINGS

No. 17 California (+51/2) at No. 4 USC (Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC) -- A few weeks back, the Bears were a popular pick to end the Trojans' Pac-10 dominance. But USC looked a lot like its mighty old self in dismantling Oregon last week, and is 18-0 in November under coach Pete Carroll. Cal gamebreakers DeSean Jackson and Marshawn Lynch will be a handful, but the Trojans make it 31 straight at home. PICK: USC.

No. 19 Virginia Tech (-2) at No. 14 Wake Forest (Saturday, 7 p.m., Rogers NCAA) -- Demon Deacons quieted a lot of doubters with last week's 30-0 rout at Florida State. It doesn't get any easier this week against the visiting Hokies, who've quietly put together a run of their own behind RB Brandon Ore and a solid defence. PICK: VIRGINIA TECH.

No. 21 Maryland (+7) at No. 20 Boston College (Saturday, Noon, Rogers NCAA) -- The stats say there's no way the Terrapins should be within striking distance of the ACC's title game. But they've won five straight, all by six points or less. Still, we like the Eagles and hot QB Matt Ryan to keep their Atlantic Division hopes alive by a hair. PICK: MARYLAND.

QUICK PICKS

(STRAIGHT-UP SELECTIONS IN BOLD)

TONIGHT

No. 8 West Virginia (-11) over Pittsburgh

SATURDAY

No. 3 Florida (NL) over Western Carolina

Mississippi State (+141/2) over No. 5 Arkansas

Army (+311/2) over No. 6 Notre Dame

No. 7 Rutgers (-7) over Cincinnati

No. 9 LSU (-271/2) over Mississippi

South Florida (+161/2) over No. 10 Louisville

Buffalo (+38) over No. 12 Wisconsin

No. 13 Boise State (-371/2) over Utah State

No. 15 Auburn (-3) over Alabama

No. 16 Oklahoma (-201/2) over Baylor

Duke (+27) over No. 18 Georgia Tech

Vanderbilt (+8) over No. 22 Tennessee

No. 23 BYU (-261/2) over New Mexico

Last week -- 16-6 straight up; 9-10-1 ATS.

Season record -- 189-33 straight up; 105-103-4 ATS.

Best bet -- Maryland (7-4).


Videos

Photos