2012 Week 11 Weekend Preview

November 8, 2012
By K. Becks

Last weekend was a major disappointment. I was so close to tying up the prediction game, but then LSU had to give about a 10-yard cushion to the Alabama receivers and decided to blitz at the absolute worst time, allowing A.J. McCarron to come out looking like a hero when in actuality, he was pretty mediocre all night.

After last weekend, I’m beginning to feel the need to make up ground quickly, even though there are five weeks left in the regular season (plus conference championship week). The overall records now stand:

K. Becks: 24-11

Guest Prognosticators: 26-9

This week, my dad (Jeff Becker) takes me on in the prediction game, which means that winning this week is personal. It’s always nice to be able to beat your father at something.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more to keep an eye on.

5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#9 Louisville at Syracuse (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Louisville isn’t exactly getting the respect that one would expect the number nine team in the country would receive. Although they are undefeated, the Cardinals are not being considered a threat in the national title race, and aren’t even in the clear in their own conference. Rutgers is right on Louisville’s tail and could take control of the conference lead next weekend if the Cardinals slip up. This weekend will be a chance for Charlie Strong’s team to prove to the voters that it doesn’t have trouble in trap games, because the matchup against Syracuse definitely falls in that category.

Teddy Bridgewater is largely considered to be the best quarterback in the Big East, but Syracuse has a pretty good quarterback of its own in senior Ryan Nassib. Nassib actually leads the conference in passing yards and is tied with Bridgewater with 18 passing touchdowns, but isn’t quite as accurate as the Louisville sophomore. Nevertheless, this weekend’s game will be Nassib’s last in front of a home crowd, which should motivate not only the quarterback but the entire offense to do its best to put on a show.

If Syracuse’s defense can slow down the run and the offense can avoid turnovers, the Orange have the ability to pull off the upset. Several times this year Syracuse has been in position to put away a seemingly better opponent, only to hurt themselves with costly turnovers. Against a disciplined Louisville squad this will be more important than ever, but the Orange are very tough at home. I think that they have what it takes to take down the Cardinals, who have been pushed to the brink by underdogs already this season.

My Pick: 33-31 Syracuse

Jeff’s Take: Louisville 31-17. Not sure they are really #9, but they have too much finesse for the Orange.

#11 Oregon State at #14 Stanford (Saturday, 3 PM ET)

There is still a chance that either one of these teams could end up in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but after this game only one will be able to say that. In more ways than one, these teams are very similar. Both are very tough on defense against the run, and at least to some extent both teams have tried different options at quarterback. These two things will likely determine the outcome of this game.

The Beavers are having an exceptional season, thanks in large part to the defense. Oregon State ranks fifth in the nation in rush defense, allowing only 91.8 yards per game on the ground. However, that stat pales in comparison when you consider that Stanford is first in run defense, allowing a meager 55.8 yards per game. As a result, it would not be surprising if the Beavers ditch the run game in favor of a more pass-oriented attack now that Cody Vaz has been made the starter at quarterback. If Vaz can find his talented receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton against a shaky Stanford secondary, Oregon State will have a lot of success on offense.

The only problem for Vaz will be Stanford’s pass rush. One of the best in the nation, the Cardinal could get to Vaz a lot considering that he was sacked six times last weekend by Arizona State. However, the Sun Devils are second to Stanford in the Pac-12 in total sacks, and it would be silly to assume Mike Riley won’t be prepared this time around. Hopefully for Stanford, they will be able to apply plenty of pressure and ideally force some turnovers. Otherwise, I think Oregon State’s defense is good enough to contain an offense that will be run by a freshman quarterback making his first collegiate start.

My Pick: 27-23 Oregon State

Jeff’s Take: Stanford 24-21. Defense beats Offense most times and Stanford has the better in the matchup.

Penn State at #16 Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Some people may argue that this is essentially Penn State’s bowl game, and that the Nittany Lions will come out strong as a result. Not so fast, my friend. While this is definitely a big game for Bill O’Brien’s team, Penn State faces Wisconsin in its final game of the season, which is at home. There is a decent chance that the Badgers will be ranked if they manage to beat Ohio State the week before, so I’ll argue that contest is Penn State’s de facto bowl game, even though the Nittany Lions could potentially ruin Nebraska’s trip to the Big Ten title game with a victory in Lincoln.

Nebraska, not all that surprisingly, has been very inconsistent this season. The Cornhuskers seem to like to play hard in one half and let the other team make it interesting in the other half. That being said, Bo Pelini’s team has rattled off three straight victories over some of the Big Ten’s better competition. The key in this game will be turnovers. Nebraska has committed eight of them in those three wins, and is going up against a Penn State team with the best turnover margin in the conference.

If the Cornhuskers can hold onto the ball, it will be very difficult for the Nittany Lions to pull off the upset. Penn State’s offensive success is predicated on Matt McGloin, who has essentially faced the bottom half of the Big Ten with regards to pass defense. If McGloin has trouble finding open receivers, a lot of pressure will be put on Penn State’s defense to hold Nebraska’s potent offense. Quite frankly, I don’t think it can be done.

My Pick: 34-24 Nebraska

Jeff’s Take: Penn State rises up and defeats Nebraska 31-30. A Top 20 team is Penn State’s bowl game.

#15 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

LSU came painstakingly close to knocking off the number one team in the nation last Saturday, but was unable to hold the Crimson Tide when it mattered most. Lots of people expect this weekend’s game between Texas A&M and Alabama to be just as interesting, but I’m not sure if I buy into that notion. The Aggies are not similar to the Tigers, and I think that it will take a defense like LSU’s to knock off Alabama. However, this kind of disagreement is why we play the games and what makes college football so fun to watch.

It is no longer valid to claim that Alabama hasn’t really beaten a good team this season. After beating LSU, Alabama has a marquee victory under its belt and the momentum and experience that comes with pulling out a close win on the road. The Tigers did, however, show the rest of the country how the Crimson Tide can be beat. In addition to plugging the middle and not allowing Alabama’s running backs time to break to the outside, a healthy dosage of passing is necessary on the offensive end. Luckily for Texas A&M, it has the most versatile quarterback the Alabama defense will see all season.

Johnny Manziel may only be a freshman, but Alabama is no longer considered unbeatable and that talk was unlikely to deter the SEC’s leading rusher and second leading passer anyway. In order for Texas A&M to beat the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Manziel will have to play the game of his life and the Aggies will simply need to force this game to be an offensive shootout. Alabama can score, but can it score well into the 30s against a defense that is capable of containing the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack? My guess is that the Aggies will be unable to score that many points, but if they do, watch out.

My Pick: 30-21 Alabama

Jeff’s Take:  Alabama 27-14. No letdown this week, the Tide is still coming in – and not going out – yet.

#2 Kansas State at TCU (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

There is no other way to put it; Kansas State is rolling. The Wildcats have scored less than 44 points only once since September, and have held every opponent with the exception of Oklahoma State to 24 points or less. This Saturday’s game could get dicey if Heisman hopeful Colin Klein isn’t cleared to play, though. Klein is the reason that the Wildcats have been so dominant on offense, and without him Kansas State’s defense will be called upon to keep things close.

This game has the potential to be very similar to last weekend’s Kansas State-Oklahoma State game. The Cowboys were being touted as a team capable of beating Kansas State thanks to an improved defense. Forty-four points later, that argument was put to rest. While TCU has been very strong defensively in prior years, the Horned Frogs are statistically about as good as Oklahoma State in all areas except run defense. Gary Patterson’s team still owns that department, with TCU allowing just over 96 yards per game on the ground. This would be a good place to start a similar argument to the one made for Oklahoma State last week, but Klein has shown he can beat you with his arm as well as his feet.

Bill Snyder’s team hasn’t performed nearly as well on the road as they have in Manhattan, but discipline is one of the things that make them such an attractive national title contender. Without Colin Klein, this is an extremely close game. With Colin Klein, the pro-Horned Frogs crowd keeps TCU in this game longer than it would be away from home.

My Pick: 41-27 Kansas State

Jeff’s Take: K State 42-27. Too much K State for the Frogs to handle – but the stadium entirely full of “purple” will be a beautiful site.

5 More to Flip To

#10 Florida State at Virginia Tech (Thursday, 7:30 PM ET)

With the intent of simply ruining another team’s season, Virginia Tech becomes a dangerous squad at home.

#24 Northwestern at Michigan (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Northwestern would need a lot of help to find its way to the Big Ten title game, but beating Michigan is a good start.

Kent State at Miami (OH) (Saturday, 1 PM ET)

The Golden Flashes were not the team most people figured would control their own destiny in the MAC East.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Dana Holgorsen’s team would drop its fourth straight conference game if it lost to the Cowboys…

#21 Mississippi State at #7 LSU (Saturday, 7 PM ET)

Not a lot of happy people coming into this one…Mississippi State will try to avoid its third straight loss, while LSU will try to avoid a letdown after nearly upsetting Alabama.

If you would like to become a guest prognosticator like Mike did this week, please let me know in one of the following ways: email me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com, send me a message on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, post a comment under this article or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. Opportunities to become a guest prognosticator will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Thanks everyone.

- K. Becks

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