NCAAF Week 13 Weekend Preview

November 25, 2010
By K. Becks

Hopefully you’ve gorged yourselves on good food today, because you’re going to want an excuse not to get off the couch starting tomorrow afternoon. It’s an uncommon occurence that some of the most important college football games of the week will be taking place on a Friday. That’s right; Oregon, Auburn, and Boise State (or, numbers one, two, and four in the BCS rankings) will all be taking to the field on Black Friday. Not only are the teams playing, but they are up against some potentially dangerous teams, making the games all the more interesting. By the time Saturday rolls around, we may already have chaos on our hands depending on how these teams fare tomorrow.

5 Games to Pay Attention To

West Virginia at Pittsburgh (Friday, 12 PM EST)

Not surprisingly, the Backyard Brawl will be crucial in deciding the winner of the Big East Conference. Currently, Pitt holds the lead at 4-1 in the conference, but if West Virginia is able to beat the Panthers, then both teams will sit at 4-2 with one game left (West Virginia, by way of head-to-head competition, would be placed ahead of Pitt in the standings. However, if West Virginia wins, they would have to hope for a UConn loss in order to win the conference). This year’s installment of the Backyard Brawl will likely come down to who is better prepared on defense. Neither team has an overly explosive offense (West Virginia averages 363.6 yards per game on offense, compared with Pitt’s 362.1), which will make every opportunity to score important for both teams. Both defenses will have to key on the opposing team’s running game; for Pitt, the job will be stopping Noel Devine, and West Virginia will look to contain Dion Lewis. Due to Devine’s issues this year because of injuries, I believe Pitt holds the upper hand in this one.

My Prediction: 24-17 Pitt

#2 Auburn at #9 Alabama (Friday, 2:30 PM EST)

This is possibly the most anticipated game of the year, let alone this weekend. Alabama, despite having suffered two losses, is still a slight favorite against the visiting Tigers. It is no secret that the Crimson Tide will be looking to stop Cam Newton and his duel threat abilities. Many times this season, Auburn has been in tight games with teams entering halftime, only to blow the game wide open in the second half on the way to somewhat comfortable victories. However, that probably won’t be the case against Alabama. Although the Crimson Tide defense may not be as dominant and unbeatable as once thought, they still have the ability to shut down players like Newton. Alabama has the chance to play spoiler here, and there is reason to believe that they have something at stake too. If the Crimson Tide can pull out a win, they still may have a shot at receiving a BCS bowl bid. By late afternoon tomorrow, I believe that the result of this game will have the college football world in as chaotic a state as that of the malls tomorrow morning.

My Pick: 33-30 Alabama

#20 Arizona at #1 Oregon (Friday, 7 PM EST)

A few weeks ago, I predicted that the Oregon vs. California game would be a lot closer than many people expected, because Cal has the tendency to play well on a hit or miss basis. While my prediction proved to be correct, there may have been more than just “blind luck” behind their close game with the Ducks. Cal has the second best defense in the Pac-10, behind Oregon, and was able to hold the Ducks to their lowest point total of the season by twenty seven points. Arizona has the third best defense in the Pac-10, giving up just 3.3 more yards per game than Cal. Unlike Cal, Arizona has an offense capable of scoring with about as much ease as Oregon does. If it weren’t for Cal’s inability to move the ball late in the game, they may have been able to beat Oregon. Thanks to Nick Foles and the rest of the Wildcat offense, Arizona may be able to close the deal that their defense creates.

My Pick: 28-23 Arizona

#3 Boise State at #19 Nevada (Friday, 10:15 PM EST)

This is, hands down, the best WAC game of the season. Boise State has a great opportunity to make a good final impression with the voters by beating a solid Nevada team. For the last few years, the Wolfpack have been the toughest test in the WAC for the Broncos, with the 2007 game being decided in the 4th overtime, and the 2008 game being decided on the final play of regulation. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has yet to beat the Broncos in his career, but he is the main reason why Boise State has had so much trouble with Nevada the past three years. Kaepernick will have to play the game of his life in order to beat the Broncos tomorrow night, but don’t put it past the fifth year senior. He has come within a play of knocking off Boise State, and he would love nothing better than to spoil the Broncos national title hopes in front of his home crowd. This is probably the biggest game of Kellen Moore’s as well. He will know going into the game how the top two teams in the nation fared earlier in the day, which could be added pressure for the spectacular junior quarterback. Expect an exciting, high scoring affair in this one, with the play of the quarterbacks likely being the difference maker.

My Pick: 49-41 Boise State

#11 Michigan State at Penn State (Saturday, 12 PM EST)

This game could ultimately decide whether or not the Big Ten championship is shared by three teams or two. It is far less likely that Wisconsin will lose at home to Northwestern, or that Ohio State will lose at home to Michigan, but Penn State is a potential trap game for Michigan State. This year, Michigan State has drifted away from the usual Dantonio game plan that relies heavily on the run, and instead leans on Kirk Cousins to move the ball with a short passing attack. The Nittany Lions, however, have a defense capable of stopping that type of offense. They are second in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State, in pass defense, giving up just 189.7 yards per game through the air. If the Nittany Lions can stop Cousins and find ways to score themselves, then they could spoil what has been as close to a dream season as possible for the Spartans. Considering the way Michigan State has found ways to win games this year, I would not be surprised if this game ended up being decided in overtime.

My Pick: 35-34 Michigan State

5 More to Flip To

Michigan at Ohio State (Saturday, 12 PM EST)

Ohio State fans probably hope that Rich Rod will stay in Ann Arbor forever. Or, at least, that the Wolverines continue to have one of the worst defenses in college football.

Florida at #22 Florida State (Saturday, 3:30 PM EST)

The Seminoles haven’t beaten the Gators since three years before Tim Tebow arrived in Gainesville. This year is a great chance for the Seminoles to get a win against their rivals.

#6 LSU at #12 Arkansas (Saturday, 3:30 PM EST)

This is arguably one of the five biggest games of the weekend. If things work out right, LSU may not play for the SEC championship, yet be in position to play for the National Championship. And there are still people out there that support the current system…

Oregon State at #7 Stanford (Saturday, 7:30 PM EST)

If Arizona doesn’t beat Oregon, then the Beavers are the last line of defense for those in favor of parody. How they look against Stanford could be an indicator of how much of a shot they have against Oregon next weekend.

#14 Oklahoma at #10 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 8 PM EST)

This game decides the Big 12 South representative in the Big 12 Championship game. Again, arguably one of the top five games this weekend, but there aren’t really any national title implications in this one.

Storylines for the Weekend

Gee-Whiz

On Wednesday, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee told ESPN that teams like Boise State and TCU don’t deserve to play for the national championship. Well, President Gee, whether you think they deserve it or not, they may be in the driver’s seat for a title bid after this weekend. If things go the way I think they will, then the only two undefeated teams left in the nation will be the Broncos and the Horned Frogs. Gee may have a point; in most years, Boise State and TCU probably don’t have a team capable of being one of the best in the nation. However, that doesn’t give anyone the right to cast them aside when they do have a team talented enough to beat anyone they play. Also, since when did being President of Vanderbilt (a.k.a. Perennial Bottom Feeder of the SEC) give you the authority to comment on “running the gantlet” in that conference?

“It’s dawg eat dawg, down heyre for au Bowyz”

After this weekend, we could have a situation in the SEC that is something like this: Auburn, currently the team with the best shot at a national championship, loses to Alabama is and thus out of the race. LSU, the team who would become the highest ranked SEC team in the BCS rankings, doesn’t get a chance to play for the SEC Championship because they lost to Auburn earlier in the season, and is thus second in the SEC East. Alabama, the only team of the three with multiple losses, could still end up being arguably the best team of the three. This potential scenario would prove that the SEC beats each other up, and teams in the conference knock each other out of a chance to play for the national championship. Meanwhile, a team from a “lesser” conference waltzes in by playing seemingly easier competition. If this were to happen, you can bet Boise State and TCU wouldn’t be the only teams voicing their support of a playoff.

Defense Wins Championships

I think that we will truly get to find out if Oregon is for real or not. Up to this point, they have really only played one team that has had a defense that the Little Sisters of the Poor (man, I’m really ripping on Gee’s comments) wouldn’t be able to score on; California. Cal was able to stop Oregon, and you can be sure that Arizona has the tape of that game, and has identified what Cal did to stop the Ducks offense. I think that tomorrow evening, the entire country will realize what I have suspected is the case for most of the season. The Pac-10 just doesn’t have that many teams that can play good defense, and when Oregon actually faces one that does, they don’t play like the best team in the nation.

- K. Becks

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