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On The Menu: January 7, 2016

Intriguing showdowns in the American, Big Ten, Pac-12, and a potential bubble battle in the SEC are your Thursday highlights.

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Game information courtesy Matt College Sports on TV Website, which has even more games listed.

All times listed are Eastern, adjust accordingly.

American Athletic

Cincinnati Bearcats (11-4, 1-1) at No. 15 SMU Mustangs (13-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. (ESPN)

While the Mustangs cannot qualify for the postseason, they still count as a quality win, which the Bearcats need right now, particularly away from Fifth Third Arena. Plus, SMU still has a perfect regular season and American regular season championship in its sights. Note that Cincinnati handed the Mustangs two of their three league losses in 2015.

ACC

No. 16 Louisville Cardinals (12-2, 1-0) at North Carolina State Wolfpack (10-4, 0-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-4, 0-1) at Boston College Eagles (7-7, 0-1), 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ESPN3)

The Wolfpack's middling season would get a boost if they can knock off the Cardinals in Raleigh, just as their win in Louisville increased their bid chances last season. However, in Chestnut Hill, the host Eagles will need to do a lot more than pick up an unexpected win over the visiting Irish to resuscitate their campaign.

Big Ten

Michigan Wolverines (12-3, 2-0) at No. 20 Purdue Boilermakers (13-2, 1-1), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Illinois Fighting Illini (8-7, 0-2) at No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (14-1, 1-1), 9 p.m. (ESPN)

On Saturday, the Boilermakers were unexpectedly trounced by Iowa at Mackey, so they'll attempt to assert themselves early against a Wolverine squad that hasn't faced a quality opponent since losing by 24 at SMU way back on December 8th. In the late game, the odds are definitely stacked against the struggling Illini as they head to East Lansing, particularly if Denzel Valentine returns for the Spartans.

Pac-12

No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (13-1, 1-0) at UCLA Bruins (9-6, 0-2), 9 p.m (ESPN2)
Arizona State Sun Devils (10-4, 0-1) at USC Trojans (12-3, 1-1), 10:30 p.m (Pac-12 Networks National, Arizona, L.A.)

After getting swept by Washington and Washington State, the Bruins are in dire need of a strong weekend at Pauley. To start the Bruins welcome a Wildcat squad that hasn't traveled to Westwood since 2014 and has only lost once to the Bruins in the past two seasons, in the 2014 Pac-12 final. Meanwhile, were it not for that epic collapse on Sunday, the Trojans would be welcoming the Sun Devils with some serious momentum. Now, they face an early bubble test against an ASU team that needs to rack up quality wins to offset a couple of bad early defeats.

SEC

Alabama Crimson Tide (9-3, 0-0) at Ole Miss Rebels (10-3, 0-1), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Crimson Tide and Rebels are the unlucky teams to draw a Thursday-Saturday swing in the SEC this week. With both teams on the bubble, the trick for both will be going for a win while conserving energy, especially since both have crucial home games less than 48 hours after this one ends—Bama hosts vulnerable Kentucky and Ole Miss welcomes Georgia to their new Pavilion.

Elsewhere

UTEP Miners (10-5, 2-0) at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (8-5, 0-1), 7 p.m. (ASN)
Old Dominion Monarchs (8-6, 0-1) at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (12-2, 1-0), 9 p.m. (CBSSN)

Four of the top teams in Conference USA square off. Perhaps this lineup will be a preview of Selection Week Friday's semifinals in Birmingham.

Hofstra Pride (10-4, 2-0) at College of Charleston Cougars (9-4, 1-1), 7 p.m. (CAA.tv)

Speaking of possible March previews, two of the CAA's best in November and December meet at TD Arena. The Pride won handily at Towson on Saturday, but their second straight league road game will be much more of a challenge.

Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (10-5, 2-0) at Murray State Racers (7-7, 1-0), 8 p.m. (OVC Digital Network)

The Golden Eagles are in a three-way tie for first in the Ohio Valley, with the Racers a half-game back.

Saint Mary's Gaels (13-1, 4-0) at Loyola Marymount Lions (7-7, 0-3), 10 p.m. (TheW.tv)

The Gaels should be able to stay perfect in WCC plat, and move a half-game up on Gonzaga, as the Lions have dropped all three of their league games so far.

Viewing Picks

Here is tonight's order of preference for the discerning neutral fan.

Early Window

Michigan at Purdue, 7 p.m (ESPNU)
Cincinnati at SMU, 7 p.m. (ESPN) 
Hofstra at College of Charleston, 7 p.m. (CAA.tv)
UTEP at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m. (ASN)
Tennessee Tech at Murray State, 8 p.m. (OVC DN)
Louisville at N.C. State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Notre Dame at Boston College, 7 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ESPN3)

Late Window

Arizona at UCLA, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Alabama at Ole Miss, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
Arizona State at USC, 10:30 p.m (Pac-12 Networks National, Arizona, L.A.)
Old Dominion at Louisiana Tech, 9 p.m. (CBSSN)
Illinois at Michigan State, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Saint Mary's at Loyola Marymount, 10 p.m. (TheW.tv)

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