2011 NCAAF Week 11 Weekend Preview

November 11, 2011

After such a sour week considering the topic of conversation surrounding the sports world, it will be nice to finally watch some games and forget about the situation, even for just a day. I cannot even bring myself to watch SportsCenter for more than a few minutes these past few days, because I just don’t want to hear any more about the Penn State scandal.

We have an interesting storyline that could play out at the end of the regular season considering that Alabama is still ranked ahead of Boise State in the latest BCS rankings. However, the Broncos can’t be thinking about that right now, as their biggest game of the season since the opener against Georgia awaits on Saturday afternoon. Readers would be naive to assume that I haven’t already started thinking about it, though.

Here is a list of my top five games to watch this weekend, as well as five more games to keep an eye on. As I alluded to in the Week 10 Weekend Preview, I have decided to scrap the “Storylines for the Weekend” section, as it was getting very weak and bland.

 5 Games to Pay Attention to This Weekend

#19 Nebraska at #12 Penn State (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

It would have been irresponsible amidst the situation in State College to remind people that the Nittany Lions are playing in their biggest game of the season this weekend, but the fact still remains true. Penn State has Big Ten title and possibly BCS bowl implications on the line this weekend against Nebraska, which is coming off of an embarrassing loss to Northwestern last weekend. In other words, news of the scandal couldn’t have broken at a worse time for the Penn State players. The stakes are high, but now the emotions will be running even higher in this game.

The Nittany Lions have quietly built a two game cushion in the Big Ten Leaders division, but are now on the radar of every team in the conference as the conference race begins to heat up. Part of the reason that Penn State has been under the radar for so long is that they are winning almost entirely thanks to their strong defense, which is giving up a Big Ten best 12.4 points per game. The Nittany Lions will need to try to shut down the Cornhusker rushing attack, led by Rex Burkhead, in order to have a shot at preserving their winning streak. If Nebraska can control the clock on offense, then the result of this game could end up being similar to the game the Cornhuskers played against Michigan State two weeks ago.

My Pick: 21-10 Nebraska

West Virginia at #23 Cincinnati (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Mountaineers have been a bit of a disappointment this year. They have gotten smacked in their two biggest games thus far, and couldn’t complete the comeback last weekend against a surprising Louisville team. Now, West Virginia must go up against a Cincinnati team whose offensive firepower is reminiscent of two years ago. If the Mountaineers want any shot at getting back to a BCS bowl, they need to win this game.

Cincinnati scores the most points per game in the Big East conference. West Virginia racks up the most offensive yards. However, what has dictated how these two teams have done this year is defense. The Bearcats have been surprisingly good defensively this season, limiting teams to fewer than 20 points per game. The Mountaineers can gain as many yards as they want offensively, but it won’t matter if Cincinnati can capitalize on turnovers. The Bearcats lead the Big East in turnover margin, and that could be the difference in this game. This one should be a close one, but it’s hard to pick against Cincinnati at home.

My Pick: 38-35 Cincinnati

TCU at #5 Boise State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

This is the weekend’s biggest game that not enough people care about. Boise State and TCU have essentially created a rivalry in a matter of three years, one that will be missed when both teams likely join different conferences after this season. However, this should be a great first and last year as conference rivals. The Horned Frogs aren’t the media darlings this year, but Gary Patterson has quietly gotten this team atop the Mountain West standings with a chance to ruin Boise State’s dream season.

Boise State struggled against Air Force two weeks ago and had trouble against UNLV in the first half of last weekend’s game, which could be a result of the mounting pressure on the team. More likely though is the fact that Boise State has had some consistency issues on defense as of late. Against TCU, this cannot happen if the Broncos want to keep their perfect record intact. The Horned Frogs on the other hand have been suspect defensively against high octane offenses like Baylor and SMU (both teams beat TCU). If Kellen Moore and the rest of the Broncos offense can get into a rhythm early, they might be able to surprise the Horned Frogs and build a nice lead. Don’t count on it, though. This should be a back and forth battle on the blue turf, likely being decided by a fourth quarter score.

My Pick: 34-27 Boise State

#24 Auburn at #14 Georgia (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Welcome to the party, Georgia. After getting beaten soundly by the team I just talked about to start the season, most everyone had written off Georgia to be a true contender for the SEC East title. The Boise State game surely proved that the Bulldogs’ defense was not where it needed to be, and that they would struggle against the powerful Florida and South Carolina offenses. Not so fast, my friend. Not only is Georgia leading the SEC East division, but they could play into an interesting scenario that may help Boise State make it to the national title game if they remain undefeated (a scenario that I will eventually write an article on Bleacher Report about). But first, the Bulldogs need to take care of a hated rival that has been wildly inconsistent.

Statistics would suggest that Auburn has been bad defensively this season. However, they have still managed to hold three teams to 14 points or less, which would suggest that they are capable of playing solid defense. The outcome of this game will probably hinge on which Auburn defense shows up to play this weekend. If “bad Auburn defense” shows up, then Georgia’s offense that averages nearly 35 points per game could make this an ugly one. If “good Auburn defense” shows up, we could see a game similar to the Auburn-South Carolina game. Either way, “good Georgia defense” almost always shows up, which will be the difference in this game.

My Pick: 27-21 Georgia

#6 Oregon at #3 Stanford (Saturday, 8 PM ET)

The Pac-12’s game of the year could very well eclipse the 100 total points mark. Both teams will score, and both will score a lot. It may be interesting to note, as a result, that Stanford has not faced a defense as talented as Oregon’s this season. However, neither of these points are the major storylines in connection with this matchup. This game will decide Andrew Luck’s Heisman fate and this game will affect Stanford’s national title hopes. These two things are what make this game interesting to the casual fan, and these are two things that I believe will be destroyed in Palo Alto on Saturday night.

After the Cowboys Classic in Week 1, it was evident that the key to stopping Oregon’s offense (and beat their defense) was being physical with the undersized Ducks. Since that game, however, no team has been as physical with Oregon as LSU had been. Stanford is the first team with the offensive line big enough to bully Oregon’s quick defensive front and create running lanes for tailback Stepfan Taylor. In fact, Taylor may be more important in this game for the Cardinal than Andrew Luck. Oregon’s defensive secondary is better than anything that Luck has faced this season, and could cause him trouble if he gets no run support. If Stanford wants to win this game, they will need to rely more on their rushing attack than Luck, because their advantage over Oregon is size up front. Since they won’t do that, they will come up just short in an offensive shootout. Who would’ve guessed that Stanford would lose a game like that?

My Pick: 45-42 Oregon

5 More to Flip To

#13 Michigan State at Iowa (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

Remember how Michigan State did in Iowa City last year? If you don’t, here’s a reminder.

#2 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech (Saturday, 12 PM ET)

The Red Raiders have looked awful the past two weeks, but have played well against every ranked team they’ve faced this season. Hell, they’re so inconsistent; you have to give them a chance because they’ll burn you if you don’t.

Texas A&M at #17 Kansas State (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

Another inconsistent Big 12 team that will make you look foolish if you don’t give them a shot against a ranked opponent…

#22 Michigan at Illinois (Saturday, 3:30 PM ET)

The 2010 version of this game was one of the best of the season. Michigan isn’t really that good, so this year’s edition should be pretty interesting, too.

UCLA at Utah (Saturday, 6:30 PM ET)

Didn’t everyone write off UCLA and call for Rick Neuheisel’s job after that loss to Arizona a few weeks ago? The Bruins now control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South division.

– K. Becks

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